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Thomas Felke, Ph.D., M.S.W. - Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL, US

Thomas Felke, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Expert in social issues and social justice | Florida Gulf Coast University


Thomas Felke researches social issues such as food insecurity and affordable housing.





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Dr. Thomas Felke is a Professor of social work and Executive Director of the Shady Rest Institute on Positive Aging at Florida Gulf Coast University. Felke conducts research on a variety of social issues including, but not limited to, affordable housing, food insecurity, homelessness, and issues facing older adults. He has conducted needs assessments for a variety of organizations including Baker Senior Center Naples, Bonita Senior Center, Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), Lee County Human & Veteran Services, St. Matthew’s House, and the Village of Estero. The use of GIS technologies to illustrate and pinpoint areas of need throughout Southwest Florida makes his research a unique contribution to community assessment.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Affordable Housing

Needs of Older Adults

Food Insecurity


Community Assessment


Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Education (4)

The University of Connecticut: Ph.D., Social Work 2010

The University of Connecticut: Certification in International Issues 2002

The University of Connecticut: M.S.W., Social Work Policy and Administration 2002

Providence College: B.A., Elementary & Special Education 1996

Affiliations (7)

  • National Association of Social Workers : Member
  • Council on Social Work Education : Member
  • Society for Social Work and Research : Member
  • Baccalaureate Program Directors : Member
  • International Social Work : Reviewer
  • Advances in Social Work : Reviewer
  • British Journal of Social Work : Reviewer

Selected Media Appearances (13)

Six-week abortion ban to take effect soon

WINK News  online


Dr. Tom Felke explains the update to Florida's abortion laws.

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FGCU institute to promote positive aging

News-Press  online


Dr. Tom Felke writes about FGCU's initiatives to support the older-adult community.

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Collier County reverses rental hike notice law after landlord protest

WGCU  online


Dr. Tom Felke discusses Collier County's decision to repeal a requirement that landlords raising rents give tenants 60 days notice.

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Concerns arise over Governor DeSantis targeting professors teaching “woke” subjects

NBC2  tv


Governor Ron DeSantis asked state colleges and universities to come up with a list of faculty members teaching classes on inclusion, diversity and critical race theory. Dr. Tom Felke weighs in.

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FGCU professor predicts what Roe v. Wade ruling could mean for certain groups

NBC2  tv


Dr. Tom Felke discusses the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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Southwest Floridians struggle with medical bills during pandemic

Fox 4  tv


Dr. Tom Felke talks about the tough choices people have to make during the pandemic.

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Home Depot packed despite stay-at-home order

NBC2  tv


Dr, Tom Felke discusses the mentality behind people being out in public when they don't have to be during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Former Bonita Springs library should become a senior center, group says

Naples Daily News  


Dr. Tom Felke discusses the need for a senior center in Bonita Springs.

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Hunger Here: Nearly 12 percent of Floridians don’t have enough nutritious food to eat. Agencies and nonprofits are finding some new ways to help.

Florida Weekly  online


Dr. Tom Felke talks about food insecurity with Florida Weekly.

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Rural Hendry County mixes economic woes, hope for new jobs



Dr. Thomas Felke talks about housing issues in Hendry County.

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Area Agency on Aging a force for thousands

Fort Myers Florida Weekly  


Dr. Thomas Felke talks about the issues of poverty and food insecurity in the greater Naples area.

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Food deserts and free lunches: SW Florida residents seek better access to healthy food

Naples Daily News  


Dr. Thomas Felke discusses food deserts in Naples, Florida.

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Number of seniors threatened by hunger has doubled since 2001, and it’s going to get worse

PBS News Hour  


Dr. Thomas Felke is interviewed to discuss issues related to food security with seniors.

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Selected Event Appearances (3)

The invisibility of social issues in Southwest Florida

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples  Naples, FL., December, 2019

Food insecurity in Southwest Florida and beyond

James Beard Foundation Chef Impact Program  Sanibel, FL., October 22 2018

The expansion of social issues among seniors in Southwest Florida

16th Annual Southwest Florida Conference on Aging  Fort Myers, FL., May 17, 2017

Research Focus (1)


Dr. Felke focuses his primary research on the application of technology to social work practice and evaluation, specifically the use of GIS to map local gaps and assets. He has published articles on the use of GIS in social work practice and co-authored a book chapter on the use of distance education technologies to internationalize the social work curriculum. More recently, Felke has focused on issues of food insecurity, affordable housing and the needs of older adults.

Selected Research Grants (3)

Journey of Hope Program Implementation & Analysis

Save the Children $200,000

September 2018 – August 2019 Title/Role: Project Manager

Lee County Gaps Analysis

Lee County Human & Veteran Services $100,000

October 2018 – August 2019 Title/Role: Principal Investigator

Community Housing & Transportation Assessment for Sanibel, Florida

Charlotte County Parks and Recreation Division $20,000

December 2014 – May 2015 Title/Role: Co-Principal Investigator; GIS Analyst

Selected Articles (4)

ArcGIS Survey123: A Case Study Using Spatial Technology to Examine Food Access

Journal of Technology in Human Services

Thomas P Felke

2023 Geospatial technologies have seen increased utilization in the social work profession for a variety of topics. Most of this usage has centered around the creation of digital maps to visualize social issues and/or affected populations. Innovative technology allows for the collection of field data resulting in real-time creation of such maps. ArcGIS Survey123 is a mobile app that allows for traditional survey data collection to be conducted digitally in the field, while also providing the ability to obtain photos and spatial coordinates. Resultant outputs can include traditional tabular datasets, photo arrays, and digital maps. A pilot project using ArcGIS Survey123 as the data collection tool was conducted in a rural area of Southwest Florida to examine access to food by establishment type as well as to expose social work students to a novel data collection technique. The result of the project was a comprehensive food system map that provided data on availability of certain food products as well as anecdotal data on the relationship between housing locations and food prices. Given the ease with which surveys could be employed for data collection purposes, it is recommended that ArcGIS Survey123 be considered for inclusion in research curricula in academic social work programs.

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Gender bias and sex-trafficking in Indian society

International Social Work

Nairruti Jani, Thomas P Felke

2017 Human trafficking is a growing crime in South Asia, particularly as economies move post-globalization. This mixed-method study explored several variables fueled by gender biases that create women’s vulnerability to human trafficking. Qualitative results supported the quantitative data from the World Development Indicator’s report that describe gross gender biases practiced in various South Asian countries. The most important findings reveal the current practices of gender bias, prostitution, and trafficking that are not recorded in the existing literature. A multi-dimensional regional practice model is proposed that could support female empowerment and international efforts to curb human trafficking in this region.

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The use of geographic information systems (GIS) in conducting a needs assessment of seniors in Collier County

Advances in Social Work

Thomas P Felke

2015 Despite boasting a population where approximately 50% of individuals are aged 65 or older, Collier County has few services specifically targeting this population. This project utilized geographic information systems (GIS) to examine the current needs of the senior population in a defined section of Collier County, Florida. Various data points regarding the population age 65 and over were obtained using the US Census Bureau’s American FactFinder tool. This data was incorporated into digital maps that included the census tracts of the selected geographic area, locations of existing programs/services, and the existing transportation network. The results of the spatial analysis were corroborated by data collected via key informant interviews and focus groups. The result of the project was the establishment of the first senior access center in Collier County. The project reinforces the use of GIS technologies for the purposes of needs assessment and siting program locations in the human services.

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Building capacity for the use of geographic information systems (GIS) in social work planning, practice, and research

Journal of Technology in Human Services

Thomas P Felke

2014 The use of geographic information systems (GIS) has been steadily increasing since initial applications first appeared in the social work literature in the mid-1990s. However, this increase is not as substantial as one might think. A possible cause for this is the seeming lack of content on GIS that is included in the social work curriculum. In 2003, an elective course in GIS application was developed at a school of social work in the Northeast region of the United States. The course objective was to promote the use of GIS in the field for social services planning, practice, and research. Through hands-on tutorials, the course introduces students to the basic functions of a variety of GIS software including online programs, such as SocialExplorer and BatchGeo, as well as the commercial software package ArcGIS. Participants also learn to locate and manage data from public domain sources and are introduced to advanced spatial analysis tools. This training allows social work students and professionals to pursue new avenues by which to effectively design, implement, and analyze programs and services. The inclusion of GIS content in the social work curriculum can increase the cachet of social work students as they enter the professional realm.

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