Everybody should have a place to call home. This country is too great, our economy is too strong and our duty to one another is too fundamental to accept otherwise. This is what I believe. I also understand it’s not that simple. Ending homelessness entirely is the right goal, but no matter how hard we work or how many great programs we support, it probably won’t happen in my lifetime or yours. But that doesn’t mean we stand on the sidelines and do nothing.
As a business leader and a county supervisor, I’m proud to support ideas that have impact. The ones that provide jobs and second chances to those teetering on the edge. The ones that connect people to stabilizing resources at critical moments. The ones that make a positive difference not only in the lives of individuals, but entire communities.
This summer, the Board of Supervisors approved $2 million in federal and county dollars to fund proven programs and initiatives helping to reduce homelessness, unemployment and repeat visitors to our jails. Many of these programs are run in partnership with our cities and towns, which are hyper-focused on community solutions that can make neighborhoods better.
Here are a few examples that will improve quality of life in the West Valley:
• Expanded partnerships with the cities of Avondale and Surprise to increase shelter options for the growing population of unsheltered individuals and families
• Investments in community action programs which provide financial assistance and crisis case management to at-risk individuals in multiple cities and towns
• Renewed agreements with trusted partners such as Native American Connections, Community Bridges, A New Leaf and Lutheran Social Services, which provide housing, shelter and navigation services
The County believes in regional solutions to homelessness because no single government, no single nonprofit and no single person — however well-intentioned — can solve this problem alone.
But I also believe in personal investment. For most of my adult life, my family’s farm has been hiring people that others have written off, offering paid work to nonviolent offenders while they’re incarcerated. Recently, we expanded Hickman Family Farms’ reentry program to include temporary housing so those willing to work have a guaranteed roof over the head for as long as they need.
I’m excited that Maricopa County is also working to make a difference in this area. One example funded this year is a collaboration called “Hand in Hand,” which connects those in the justice system who have experienced homelessness with supportive housing, physical/mental health and navigation services while in jail, and community services upon release. The people who benefit from Hand in Hand are the frequent flyers. Those who come back to jail again and again, often for misdemeanors, many of which are related to lack of housing. This program looks at the individual’s needs and provides resources that give them the greatest chance of staying out of jail.
Getting people off the streets and connecting them with affordable housing and jobs is an important part of building safe, healthy communities. Maricopa County is a regional leader and active partner on this issue, bringing people to the table and funding proven programs. We may not be able to do everything, but each of us can do something. I hope you’ll join us.