This week Arizona 360 got an update on efforts to help one of Southern Arizona's most disadvantaged populations: the homeless. Last year homelessness affected 37,404 people across the state, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The department's annual report on homelessness in the state also found 23 percent of the homeless population lives in Pima County. In recent years, that number has decreased due in part to collaborative programs that have led to employment and housing for some homeless individuals.
Tom Litwicki is CEO of Old Pueblo Community Services, which is one of the organizations making a difference. He explained some of the solutions that address the ongoing challenges associated with homelessness.
"One of the things you'll hear people say is: 'I can't get housing because I'm not employed. And I can't get employed because I don't have housing,'" Litwicki said. Litwicki said his organization offers what's called low-barrier housing designed as a bridge that provides temporary apartments where tenants can store their belongings and better prepare to enter the workforce. Residents can stay as long as they are not an imminent danger to themselves or others.
The Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness website features the agencies that can place homeless individuals on a list for this type of housing.
There's a shortage of skilled machinists across the country. In Pima County, initiatives led by the Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners attempt to fill those demands. Local manufacturers have partnered with the county to recruit high school students interested in trade and manufacturing jobs. Instead of reaching out to students directly, they are getting the word out to school counselors and teachers whom students often seek advice from about opportunities after graduation. Lorraine Rivera joined a group of counselors as they toured a company in Tucson that manufactures archery equipment.
Higher education is still an option for people considering careers in the trades. Pima Community College offers courses to prepare them for those jobs. Patrick Lawless serves as department head of PCC's Building and Construction Technologies program. He described how public perception of trade careers has evolved.
"I think the professions are getting more respect than they have in the past," Lawless said. "I had a contractor from Phoenix … she told me a couple of her techs are making over $150,000 a year."
Last year community opposition erupted when the agro-giant Monsanto said it would open a facility near Marana and requested a tax break and foreign trade zone status. The company eventually moved forward with construction and dropped its request. Vanessa Barchfield got an update on the project, near West Twin Peaks and North Sanders roads. She spoke to Monsanto company representatives about plans for its new greenhouse and met with a local farm owner who still opposes the development.
For Your Vote 2018, Arizona 360 is seeking interviews with all of the gubernatorial candidates who qualified for the primary ballot. We are focusing on their views about Arizona's economy and education funding. Among the five candidates, Democratic state Sen. Steve Farley has represented Tucson in the Arizona Legislature for more than a decade.