Online community questionnaire asks for input on homelessness in Scottsdale

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2023 - 7:46am

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Welcome to Scottsdale marker sign
Tim Agne/KJZZ
"Welcome to Scottsdale" sign at 56th Street and Thomas Road in Scottsdale.

The city of Scottsdale began sending biweekly questionnaires to residents this spring. With feedback at public meetings and recent events in mind, the newest one covers homelessness.

Scottsdale partnered with locally based ATOM Innovation to develop the Speak Up Scottsdale platform, where the questionnaires are hosted.

ATOM Innovation president Yani Deros said they make for a great way for a third party to help the city use data to “keep a pulse on the community” in a way that’s “more impactful, we believe, than sitting in a room or waiting in the back of a hall, waiting to speak.”

Deros says the fact that questionnaires are done privately, on a person’s own time, could make answers more honest.

Scottdale Community Involvement Manager Joy Racine said she agrees.

“I do think it allows people more time to express themselves and see what other people are saying without having to worry,” Racine said.

While policy doesn’t necessarily take shape overnight, “we can take a look at this and now we can see, okay, I do see this issue resonating.”

With homelessness on many minds and in the headlines, Racine said the time felt right to get more of the community’s thoughts.

“One of the questions we asked are: What emotions or what feelings come about when you hear the word ‘homelessness’?” Racine said. “If we’re seeing that fear is a big one, well, now we can delve deeper into that through a future [questionnaire]: ‘What is your concern? What is that actual fear?’”

Racine said the platform has also been a tool to help educate community members about existing services and their scope.

“Through our replies, we can further educate them on what this grant funding actually covers, what this housing option really covers, who the people are that we're helping,” Racine said. “And so that helps clear up some of the misconceptions that people will have about homelessness.”

There’s been a big enough response to warrant a follow up with more specific questions.

“They brought up the topic of panhandling as something,” said Racine. “They also looked at what are some areas– hotspots of where they tend to see more people experiencing homelessness.”

Racine said the hope is to find where Scottsdale can direct focus and resources according to those answers.

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