Dr. Thomas Felke is the bachelor's of social work program director and an associate professor of social work at Florida Gulf Coast University. Felke conducts research on a variety of social issues including, but not limited to, affordable housing, food insecurity, homelessness, poverty, and social isolation of older adults. He has conducted needs assessments for a variety of organizations including Charlotte County Parks & Recreation, Collier Senior Resources, Jewish Family & Community Services of Southwest Florida, 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)
Needs of Older Adults
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
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
- 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 (5)
Rural Hendry County mixes economic woes, hope for new jobs
Dr. Thomas Felke talks about housing issues in Hendry County.
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.
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.
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.
Home Depot packed despite stay-at-home order
Dr, Thomas discusses the mentality behind people being out in public when they don't have to be during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 (3)
Nairruti Jani, Thomas P Felke
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.
Thomas P Felke
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.
Thomas P Felke
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.