Wayne State Social Work faculty and Hannan Center social worker recognized for partnership benefiting Detroit’s older adults

For the second year in a row, the Special Commission to Advance Macro Social Work presented a special award to social workers whose efforts have achieved structural change of a systemic nature in their practice or setting. The Rothman Award for Structural Change Practice recognizes transformative change in the way policies and procedures are carried forward and/or by whom. Such change alters conditions to benefit people suffering inequities, such as poverty and income deprivation, racial injustice, and social discrimination. This year’s recipients are Tam Perry, Institute of Gerontology (IOG) training director at Wayne State University and School of Social Work associate professor, and her colleague, Melissa Draughn, who serves as Director of Social Work at Hannan Center, which provides educational programs, adult day services, and social services support to older adults in the Detroit area.

Tam Perry
WSU Social Work Professor and IOG Training Director Tam Perry, PhD

Throughout her career Perry has worked closely with community organizations, local and federal funders, and older adults completing a variety of ethnographic research projects integrating first-hand accounts of how older adults are impacted by housing instability and transitions, homelessness, loss, caregiver death, environmental impacts, and more. Since earning her PhD in 2012, Perry has mentored scores of doctoral students specializing in various aspects of gerontology and research.

A Wayne State BSW and MSW alum, Draughn has devoted her career to working with clients in both inpatient and outpatient community mental health agencies. Since 2019, Draughn has led a team of Hannan Center social workers who complete comprehensive assessments to develop a person-centered plan of care with resources for older adults in Detroit.


Melissa Draughn
Hannan Center Director of Social Work Melissa Draughn

Richard Smith, Associate Dean for Research and School of Social Work professor nominated Perry and Draughn on behalf of the Senior Housing Preservation Detroit (SHP-D) Coalition “because they advance the tradition of social action and political advocacy that Rothman represents,” Smith said.

"The wide acceptance of ageism makes it easy for people and institutions to marginalize our senior population. Through the Senior Housing Preservation – Detroit Coalition, Hannan Center strives to amplify the voices of older adults and combat age discrimination in housing,” said Vincent Tilford, CEO and President, Hannan Center.

Perry serves as Research Chair of the SHP-D.

“Since its founding in 2013, we’ve worked tirelessly to address the displacement of older adults, the loss of senior housing as the city gentrifies; and ways to improve quality of life to those living in senior housing. To date, coalition members have published four peer-reviewed articles; three invited articles; one white paper; and two book chapters,” Perry said.  A local filmmaker, Kate Levy, produced a video, “Holding Down the Fort,” in collaboration with the SHP-D Coalition. The video was featured in the 2022 Lake Michigan Film Festival.

SHP-D members have achieved respect among Detroit elected officials and housing staff through direct advocacy. Members have also testified at Detroit City Council meetings and participated in numerous local, state, national, and international forums on affordable housing for older adults.

“Your work demonstrates your commitment to transformative change at the ‘macro-level’ of our society. We believe that this Coalition wonderfully reflects the heart of Social Work’s promise to change conditions that affect people, not simply to change people affected by conditions,” according to Perry and Draughn’s award letter.

“I was honored to be recognized at a national level for work myself and so many others have been doing on behalf of older Detroiters with regards to housing,” Perry said.

Perry and Draughn attend monthly meetings with other coalition members and work together on various collaborative projects. The two co-presented “A Detroit-based Coalition to Promote Equity at the Intersection of Health, Housing and Aging: A Macro Social Work Case Study” at the awards ceremony held this month at the Macro United Conference held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (photo above).

Perry added, the involvement of the Hannan Center demonstrates the importance of social work professionals being part of advocacy and public policy discussions.

According to SHPD, “Over 2,000 seniors in over a dozen Detroit apartment buildings are at risk of being displaced from their homes and communities over the next decade.” 

“I believe that stable housing is a core tenet of one’s wellbeing, and I’m concerned by the number of older adults (and persons of all ages) facing housing precarity,” Perry said.

Author: Laura Hipshire laurahipshire@wayne.edu

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