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Stacia and JJ 2
Stacia Martin-West and neighbors get together over a meal to move homeless neighbor, JJ, into assisted living community. From left, Jessica Burrell-Wilkins, Stacia Martin-West, JJ, Angie Stackhouse

For UT social work faculty member Stacia Martin-West, it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time and having the knowledge to help.

Martin-West recently worked with neighbors in her Nashville community and with faculty and staff in UT’s College of Social Work to provide a home for a homeless neighbor named JJ.

“It was the natural social worker in me to see this happening in my neighborhood and to recognize I had the skills and experiences to access the resources he needed,” Martin-West said.

Before moving into academia, Martin-West was a practicing social worker in Knoxville. Her work focused specifically on housing affordability and homelessness. When she saw JJ sitting out in the rain on a street in East Nashville’s Highland Heights neighborhood this past January, she and a group of neighbors approached him. They learned JJ had been recently evicted from his home and was in need of medical attention for his diabetes.

Martin-West and neighbors launched a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of moving JJ into an assisted living facility . After the campaign was shared with faculty and staff in the College of Social Work, they managed to raise more than $1,800 in one day.

The executives at Bristol Terrace Assisted Living and Memory Care were impressed enough to move JJ in right away, before the final goal was reached.

Image of JJ and Martin-West
JJ and Martin-West

“The commitment from UT showed we could raise the full amount and it helped him transition early,” Martin-West said.

JJ moved into the facility this past weekend. The GoFundMe page will cover his costs until his insurance becomes available within 60 days.

In her academic life, Martin-West conducts research focused on universal basic income, unconditional cash transfers, women’s poverty and wealth inequality, and the affordable housing crisis. She recently completed the first evaluation of unconditional cash transfers in the context of environmental and economic disaster, focusing on the Dollywood Foundation My People Fund supporting those affected by the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfire.

Read the full story of Martin-West and JJ from Fox 17 News Nashville.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Betsy DeGeorge (865-974-8638,