AZ Town Hall's Tucson meeting focusing on vulnerable Arizonans - Tucson News Now

AZ Town Hall's Tucson meeting focusing on vulnerable Arizonans

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

When nearly half of Arizonans are considered to be one step away from going hungry or losing their homes or some other crisis, it's a problem that could affect everyone in the state.

The spring Arizona Town Hall meeting is tackling the issue of vulnerable Arizonans and how to help them and their communities become successful.

Town hall leaders say everyone is vulnerable to a certain extent.

For a family or individual there can be vulnerabilities in education, in access to resources, in financial situations, in access to food.

The Town Hall is looking for solutions to a huge number issues that have people so close to crisis.

We're told the Town Hall looks at root causes, not just the symptoms.

Arizona State University prepared the background report in advance of the meeting.

It points to a staggering number of root causes of vulnerability in Arizonans who range from children to elderly people.

Some statistics:

24% of people working in the state have low wage jobs.

57% of workers in Arizona have less than $25,000 in savings.

27% of Arizona's children are living in poverty.

The non-profit, non-partisan Arizona Town Hall is looking at ways to turn things around, but a point that has come out of the study is that solutions can't be one-size-fits-all.

Arizona Town Hall Board Chairman Scott Rhodes says there are degrees of vulnerability.

He says some people might need just a little assistance, while it's a different story for others.

"There are others that have so many factors because of their economic situation because of where they live, transportation issues and a whole host of other factors that no matter--they might fix one, but the others will still be there," Rhodes says.

A family can be one crisis away from homelessness or a student might not have access to that mentor who can be the difference between success and failure.

"Do they know people that are professionals? Do they know people that have gone to college? Do they know people that are giving them good advice about how to make these big decisions, especially if they're from families that don't have a history of going to college or holding professional jobs?" explains Arizona Town Hall Board of Directors Executive Committee Member Alberto Olivas.

He says in advance of this week's Town Hall in Tucson there were Future Leader Town Hall sessions with high school and university and community college students.

Olivas says the students had specific ideas about what could make a big difference for them and their families.

"A lot of it comes down to being aware of information and resources that can help people, either in crisis or to avoid getting into crisis. But I think what was striking for me was that a lot of them talked about the awareness of how precarious their and their families'--their situations are. How that affects their decision-making. Whether or not to take this job or that job, whether or not to go to college, or what college to got to because of the fear of incurring a lot of debt or whether or not they'll be able to be successful in that field or whether they know anyone that has done it before," Olivas says.

Issues can start early, with children in families where education not valued.

However, even when education is of high value, there can be problems with the potential to snowball.

"There are some who rely on way too much debt to get through school. We're hearing that many many students are borrowing heavily to get through school and then they move into vocations where they have no realistic prospect of being able to repay the debt. So the seeds of future vulnerability are being planted, you might say, at a very young age," says Arizona Town Hall Board of Directors Executive Committee Member Richard Morrison.

Arizona Town Hall Participants also tackled issues of drug addiction and of veterans returning home and finding it difficult to get a job, to name a few.

Town hall participants come from all over the state, from all walks of life, and they come with ideas.

The Town Hall will have follow-up sessions as the process moves forward.

To see the study on who else is vulnerable in Arizona click here (PDF).

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