Those of you that have come into the office have probably met my staff member Chris Desborough. In addition to his North London accent, you might have noticed that he is visually impaired. He’s done a lot to educate me and the rest of the staff on disability issues.
I think that it’s safe to say that he is the only paid council staffer who has ever used SunVan, the city’s paratransit service. While it is a good, low-cost option for many disabled Tucsonans, there are many things about the service that could be improved.
Chris is running a series of listening sessions where SunVan users can talk about their issues with the people in charge of Tucson transit. He’s already held one, and it was a rare opportunity for transit leadership to hear suggestions from the public they serve.
Because of the unique perspective that Chris brings, he’s also been working to make sure that access concerns are considered as the city revamps its website, as well as working with our Commission on Disability Issues to make sure that it’s a more effective way to bring concerns from his community before Mayor and Council.
Be on the lookout for an event coming up in December that Chris is working on with several other disability advocacy organizations.
Council members and staff attended an event this week put on by the Community Investment Corporation. It was a thank you to their staff along with twelve partner organizations that worked through the pandemic to keep people in their homes.
The effort started when the first CARES Act money came to our community. It became clear that, with the number of people in danger of being homeless, it would take more than one entity to get the help needed to tenants and landlords in time. They also needed to make sure that whatever system was put together would not get bogged down in paperwork and bureaucracy.
The Community Investment Corporation put together a program management platform. The City of Tucson’s Department of Housing and Community Development also partnered up along with 11 other local agencies (including agencies from Ajo and Green Valley that wanted to give Tucson a hand). The federal government eventually contributed more money as part of its Emergency Rental Assistance grants.
I could bore you with more details about how this worked, but here is the important part: 75 people, from both Community Investment Corporation and those other local agencies, managed to get assistance to over 11,200 Tucsonans to the tune of $60 million. This helped prevent the predicted “eviction tsunami” and our community avoided $207 million in costs to our community in the form of more use of social services, further loss of employment and yes, costs to landlords.
Keeping our neighbors in their homes was a big win for Tucson, and those people put in a lot of work to do it. Thank you.