Phase 1

Riverton City Case Files

Your History

You have recently moved to Riverton, social work degree in hand. You are renting a home with two roommates in a neighborhood known as Alvadora, a 40-block square on the west side of town, consisting of newer homes (less than 20 years old) populated largely by working-class families. You are thrilled because the house is close to your job at the Alvadora Community Mental Health Center. You also like your neighbors and appreciate many of the amenities of the community.

Riverton is a city of about 100,000 people, located in the Midwest. Residents here are proud of their city; its center is bustling with independently-owned businesses, a highly-regarded art museum, and quite a few restaurants.

Over the years, residents have acquiesced to requests from the city and state for raises in the property tax levy, particularly when those raises are tied to public school improvements and the expansion or improvement of green spaces. As a result, the public education system is regarded as one of the best in the region, and beautiful and functional green spaces dot many of the neighborhoods.

Riverton’s population is fairly balanced along the income spectrum. About 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, a figure several percentage points above the national average. However, real median income mirrors almost exactly the national median. Affordable housing is a concern in Riverton, however, particularly because zoning laws have limited the community’s sprawl, leading to some housing shortages over time. Over the last decade, record growth in property values created additional wealth for those who were already homeowners but squeezed out many who find themselves now unable to afford homeownership. Rental prices have risen, too, as you and your roommates discovered when you signed your lease.

About 15 miles outside the city limit is the River coal-fired power plant. The plant is both a major employer and a major supplier of energy for the rest of the state. Despite vigorous opposition to its existence on environmental and public health grounds, plant operation continues unabated. Retail and hospitality are other principal sectors of Riverton’s economy; however, jobs in these sectors provide less economic security than public employment or manufacturing.

As in many communities in the United States, Riverton is fast approaching demographic plurality. While approximately 55 percent of residents identify as white, the Black and Latinx populations have grown dramatically in the past decade. Analysts anticipate that the next Census will reveal that no ethnic group is in the statistical majority.

Your Concerns

You knew that Riverton has a sizeable homeless population; you had seen news coverage of the debates over reopening a year-round homeless shelter and allowing camping in public parks. You had not realized the full extent of the problem, however, nor the extent to which you would confront it at your own door. Immediately upon moving in, you began to find empty liquor and beer bottles strewn all over your yard and your neighbors’, requiring a daily clean-up operation by residents on your street and surrounding areas. When you asked your neighbor, she said that it had gotten worse since the homeless shelter—which used to be downtown—was relocated near Alvadora. Other neighbors are also upset. People experiencing homelessness sometimes stop to rest on your block, and there are problems with public urination, as well. The issue comes up at work, too, where your colleagues at the mental health center share concerns about clients who have been harassed while searching for public restrooms or taking refuge in the public library. Several staff at the mental health center have spoken with city councilmembers about the need for expanded housing options for people experiencing homelessness, as well as for programs to help those struggling with alcohol dependency. The city has not taken any action, however, and stakeholders on all sides of the issue are unsure how to proceed. Knowing your multiple interests in the issue, your supervisor has asked you to engage the community to come up with a workable solution.

Your Goals

  • Find a solution to the problem of homelessness in your community. What do you know about who is experiencing homelessness and the factors that are contributing to the increase in severity of the problem? What have other communities done, specifically to meet the needs of those who are homeless and struggling with substance use disorders?
  • Find a solution to the problem of public intoxication and its consequences in your neighborhood. Do you know about what other communities have done? What are the different levers you might use to address the issue?
  • Engage key stakeholders in the community, including affected individuals, elected officials, service providers, business owners, and community residents, in pursuing promising solutions.
  • Implement your solutions using your systems knowledge of the problem, your professional engagement skills, and the Code of Ethics to guide your decision-making.


Review the community sociogram.

View sociogram

Critical Thinking Questions

These core questions, specific to each client, will help you better understand and assess your client. Refer back to your answers throughout your assessment.

View your questions