Deep Dive: Some people think homelessness is a choice. This advocate debunks that misconception

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2023 - 11:02am
Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2023 - 11:08am

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homelessness and heat
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
An 69-year-old unsheltered Phoenix man gathers his belongings in summer 2022.

Ask someone who works with people experiencing homelessness, and they’ll tell you one of the hardest parts is that clients often say, “I don’t want help," “I chose to be homeless,” “I like it here.”

Richard Southee says that's a misconception. 

Southee is assistant director of programs at Central Arizona Shelter Services, the big homeless services campus in downtown Phoenix and he told The Show, no one truly wants to be homeless.

However, when you’ve gone through the trauma that people experiencing homelessness have, rejecting help can seem like protecting yourself. 

Southee is very focused on the key word there: trauma. He is also a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University who is studying what’s called trauma-informed care. He has helped the homeless services campus here rethink what they do to take this approach — and it takes a big mind shift. 

Southee spent some time with The Show to talk about his work, how he got into it, and why it matters. The conversation is part of a new segment from The Show called Deep Dive.

Richard Southee
Amber Victoria Singer/KJZZ
Richard Southee

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