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In recent years, there has been a perceived increase of homelessness in Apache Junction. The 2017 Point in Time (PIT) count tallied 43 sheltered or unsheltered homeless individuals in the city on a single night in January. Apache Junction’s services for such individuals are limited and divided by county lines that bisect the city. Further, when the Genesis Project—a nonprofit that provides free food—moved to Apache Junction’s downtown, some nearby businesses were worried the presence of homeless people would deter customers.
The Apache Junction Empowerment Group was formed in 2015 and the Chronic Homeless Subcommittee in 2016 to work toward addressing and preventing homelessness in Apache Junction. Despite the contributions of these two groups, the city is still grasping to understand how the public perceives homelessness and what services are needed by its homeless population and those at risk of homelessness. In fall 2017, PUP 571 Socio-Economic Planning and PAF 509 Public Affairs Capstone enlisted in Arizona State University’s Project Cities program to help Apache Junction comprehend these issues and make decisions about what to do next. The students in PUP 571 looked outward for insight, researching peer communities around the United States with similarities to Apache Junction and interviewing their leadership about successful strategies for addressing homelessness. PAF 509 students focused on Apache Junction, interviewing residents and analyzing data related to their specific topics, then presenting recommendations specific to the city’s context.
PUP 571: Socio-Economic Planning (now Planning Methods) - Students in this course looked to peer communities around the country for best practices for addressing homelessness. To choose the communities, they searched for those with characteristics like climate, population, and unemployment rate that were similar to those of Apache Junction, as well as communities making promising strides, which they then vetted with Apache Junction staff to determine which seemed most promising. From interviews with leadership in the selected peer communities, their findings indicated that successful strategies make use of federal programs and funding, encourage collaboration and data sharing, involve the community, locate services prudently, and educate law enforcement.
PAF 509: Public Affairs Capstone - Individual students in this course each produced a capstone report for their master’s degrees focused on specific aspects of homelessness in Apache Junction and related topics, such as funding opportunities or health concerns. Each chose customized investigative approaches including surveying residents and analyzing data. Based on their research methods, the students generated their own findings and recommendations. Themes that emerged for recommendations included: 1) providing shelter; 2) prioritizing transportation; 3) encouraging collaboration between service providers, the city, and neighboring municipalities; and 4) increasing public awareness.
The ideas and recommendations presented by these students are starting points for Apache Junction. They are meant to support the city in making improvements through plans informed by research, demographics, and opportunities. The work is not comprehensive or totally cohesive, and any pursuit of the recommendations requires professional review and consideration. That being said, the course reports are meant to stimulate deeper conversations among managers and policy makers as well as staff, residents, and community groups.
Goals and recommendations of each report are introductory summaries of the final reports generated by each course. These cover the problem targeted, research methods used, findings, resulting recommendations, and areas for further exploration. Each summary is followed by select student deliverables in their entireties, which can be consulted for greater depth and more clarity on how the recommendations were reached.
Read the final report here: https://sgsup.asu.edu/sites/default/files/pc_report_understanding_homelessness_short.pdf
Watch the final presentation from PUP 571 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dev3wzfCMeQ