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Arizonans want action to solve homelessness, Arizona Town Hall report says

Arizona Town Hall has released a new report highlighting Arizonans’ priorities on issues of mental illness, substance use and homelessness. 

Arizona Town Hall held dozens of meetings around the state this year on those topics. The events drew more than 2,000 participants, including many who have experienced homelessness.

“It was overwhelming in some ways,” Arizona Town Hall president Tara Jackson told KJZZ News. She said the response to the events shows just how concerned Arizonans are about the state’s growing unsheltered population.

"People are just really hungry for how to solve [these issues] and how to help their community," Jackson said.  

One of the key takeaways from the events, highlighted in the nonprofit's new report, is that Arizonans want to see elected leaders invest more in "housing first" solutions that get unsheltered people into homes.

“Getting people in stable housing is not only the right thing to do that’s been shown to be impactful, it also reduces expenses overall because you’re less likely to have the expenses of emergency room visits and police response,” Jackson said.  

Other recommendations from the report include combating stigma around mental illness and substance use, allowing more flexibility for using public funding for homelessness solutions, and expanding the state’s mental health services.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.