Homeless needs assessment makes some revelations

The survey will help Tucson apply funding efficiently after some interviewers put their own experiences to use
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:44 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Understanding what causes homelessness in Tucson and the challenges to get out of it can help make the most of the funds we use to address it. That is the goal of a new City of Tucson Needs Assessment of Adults Experiencing Homelessness, based on almost 400 surveys conducted with homeless individuals in Tucson.

People completed a 67-question survey, which is a lot of people in the local survey line of work, and 67 questions are asking more than usual. This was done by the UA Southwest Institute for Research on Women, contracted by the City of Tucson. One of the women doing the asking used her own experience to help connect with participants.

“I myself have slept in a car. I know what that’s like. It’s been a while since I had to do that, but I know what it’s like when you have to sleep in your car,” said Stacee Sivley/Taylor.

She applied her own homeless experience to connect with people she interviewed for a new needs assessment of Tucson homeless adults.

“It almost seems like what I experienced is nothing to what they’re experiencing now to this day because things are a lot worse today,” she said.

Three hundred eighty-nine people completed the survey, and some things stood out:

Twenty-eight percent are 55 are older, which possibly shows a growing senior citizen homeless population as rents rise on those with fixed incomes.

Twenty-four percent said that eviction and unaffordable rent were main reasons they entered homelessness.

“There’s so many buildings out here that are vacant that we can do, we can do a lot,” she said.

This survey could help the city find the most effective ways to use federal, state, and local funding.

“The government needs to help. We are in trouble here. I mean, it’s all over,” she said.

Thirteen percent of those surveyed identified the death of a family member or someone in the household as their cause of homelessness and 13 percent said it was their substance abuse that caused it. Researchers with the institute point out this appears to be a smaller percentage than often perceived by the public because drugs might often be used to cope with homelessness as opposed to causing it.

“When they say, ‘The struggle is real,’ it’s meant ‘the struggle is real out here,’” she said.

And researchers consider these numbers as revelations of how quickly people can enter the homeless population: an earner in the household dies, rents rise, and then they must cope with the situation as they try to get out of it.

“Being around all these people, it does change you. It makes you thankful for what you have,” she said.

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