UnAffordable and UnSheltered

Are homelessness, and affordable housing in Arizona connected? Housing in the Phoenix area has become hard to afford. However, it's often the institutional barriers that keep people homeless. UnSheltered and UnAffordable podcasts explore the obstacles that can make surviving and thriving in the Valley a challenge.

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UnAffordable: The Perfect Storm

Chanel Sinclair

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How did the Phoenix area develop one of the most severe affordable housing shortages in the country? In part one of this five-part podcast, host Katherine Davis-Young introduces us to Chanel Sinclair, a hardworking single mom in the Phoenix area who has found it difficult to afford rent even with a full-time job. Chanel is not alone in her struggles, and some of the challenges that make housing unaffordable for Arizonans like Chanel date back all the way to the founding of Phoenix. 

UnAffordable: The Working Poor

Volunteers serving food at St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix

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Affordability is relative. What you can afford to pay in rent all depends on how much money you make in the first place. So how do wages relate to Arizona's growing affordability problem? And with programs like Section 8 housing choice vouchers available to help low-income people afford rent, why are so many still struggling? In part two of this five-part podcast series, Katherine Davis-Young explores the widening gap between wages and housing costs in Arizona. 

UnAffordable: The Balancing Act

Apartment construction site

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When we talk about the issue of housing, we’re talking about so much more than building one home for one person. Housing is a balancing act among the people who need places to live, the developers who build it, the city that makes the rules, and even neighbors who already live in a place. In part three of this five-part series, Katherine Davis-Young explains, as demand for housing in Phoenix keeps rising, all of the obstacles in the way of housing are only getting more complicated, and affordable housing...that might be the most complicated of all.

UnAffordable: The Money Problem(s)

Dede Yazzie Devine, CEO of Native American Connections

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Phoenix needs more affordable housing so, why not just build it? In part four of this five-part podcast, Katherine Davis-Young explores the massive costs and stymied funding sources for affordable housing. Arizona used to put much more money toward affordable housing. We'll learn where the funding went, and the challenges to getting it back. 

UnAffordable: Where Do We Go From Here?

Chanel Sinclair

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There are many organizations in Arizona working to build affordable housing and support low-income people who need places to live. But all of these organizations say they can't keep up with the demands of the state's growing population and worsening housing shortage. In the final episode of this podcast, Katherine Davis-Young looks at what's already being done and what else the state would have to do to address its looming housing crisis. Plus, we learn how single mom Chanel found a solution to her own affordable housing problem.

UnSheltered: Street Living

Tents along a street in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix.

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As volunteers hit the streets to count the numbers of unsheltered homeless in Maricopa County, Unsheltered will delve into why Phoenix has such a problem, what can be done about it, and why it's so hard to fix.

UnSheltered: Illness & Incarceration

Carolyn Moore

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Once someone ends up homeless, systematic and legal barriers make it exceedingly difficult to escape. A majority of homeless people find themselves involved with law enforcement, and managing a chronic medical condition is complicated by the realities of life on the streets. With a criminal record or a chronic illness, finding stable housing becomes nearly impossible.


UnSheltered: Improvise: Homeless During Crisis

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It's safe to argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster. And the way we prepare for, respond to and discuss disasters in the United States often excludes the homeless and poor - to their detriment. From emergency shelter to relief and recovery, disaster response isn't designed to include the homeless.

UnSheltered: New Normal

COVID Testing

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The post-pandemic world will be a lot different from the pre-pandemic world. At this moment, nobody really knows what the next week will look like - let alone the next year. That uncertainty raises several challenges and questions for the organizations that serve unsheltered Arizonans.

UnSheltered: Assembly Line Justice

Homeless tents lined up along a downtown Phoenix street

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It's not a crime to be homeless. But survival for unsheltered people sometimes means standing or sleeping in odd places, fighting to maintain space or belongings, and escaping the situation through drugs, all of which often lead to misdemeanor charges. Those who are arrested for low-level offenses like trespassing, disorderly conduct, or simple possession face a justice system where cases are disposed of in minutes, without access to legal counsel, and with lasting impacts on their ability to escape homelessness.

UnSheltered: Sentenced

Maricopa County Superior Court building in downtown Phoenix. Sky Schaudt/KJZZ

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Sentences for misdemeanor crimes typically include fines and probation. While it's easy to say those sentences aren't harsh, for the poorest people in Arizona, the effects of these penalties often far outweigh the seriousness of their crimes. For the large number of Americans who are one unexpected expense away from losing everything, a fine or probation could be what makes them homeless.