Newsroom | Finding Out What Home Means to Arizonans

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Warmth. Safety. Family. Comfort. For attendees of the Arizona Housing Coalition’s recent “Refocus : Reframe” conference, these were a few of the words that came to mind when asked, “what does home mean to you?”

Arizona housing conference gets first look at “Home is where it all starts” public education campaign

Warmth. Safety. Family. Comfort. For attendees of the Arizona Housing Coalition’s recent “Refocus : Reframe” conference, these were a few of the words that came to mind when asked, “what does home mean to you?” From favorite family traditions to comfort food, “home” means something different and special to each of us. Similarly, when asked what “home” means to the broader community, words like “belonging,” “success,” and “diversity” were shared as examples of how home connects to a much broader regional community. A graphic recorder captured the discussions through artwork.

Artist Hannah Murphy and sample Home Is... illustrations

Graphic Recording Artist Hannah Murphy asked attendees of the housing conference to share what home means to them. She illustrated their answers.

The questions were part of the introductory launch for “Home is where it all starts,” a new public education campaign looking to change the conversation about affordable housing and create lasting change. The campaign envisions “a future where every Arizonan has a place to be at home, empowering them to live stable and purposeful lives.” 

That includes helping people overcome experiencing homelessness because of the lack of access to attainable housing.

Changing the Narrative

“It’s time to change the narrative around homelessness and find ways to ensure affordable rents and mortgages for every person in the region,” said MAG Deputy Executive Director Amy St. Peter during a presentation at the conference. “We are striving to inspire and cultivate champions where everyone has a home that meets their needs. Needs are defined broadly. This isn’t just about money. It’s about being close to the people and places that matter to you, family, school, congregations, work, and medical care.”

Amy St. Peter presenting at the Arizona Housing Coalition Conference

MAG Deputy Director Amy St. Peter discusses the goals of the campaign at the Arizona Housing Coalition Conference.

St. Peter noted the campaign will use data and stories to show the value and impact of attainable homes. These include stories from people with lived experience, such as that of Clare.

Clare’s Story

After a family business went under, Clare and her husband, Kip, found themselves unable to pay the mortgage on the home where they lived with their two children. Clare had just learned she was pregnant with the couple’s third child when the bank foreclosed and their home was sold at auction.

Kip stayed with friends while Clare and her children lived in a friend’s office. Clare would sneak out of the building at night to wash baby bottles in the public restroom. When tenants complained, Clare was forced to leave. 

“The biggest scare for us was just hoping that no one took our kids. When you don’t know anything about community resources and how the resources work, all you think is that if people find out we can’t provide a roof over our head or shelter for our kids, we’re going to lose them,” says Clare. “So that’s the thing you don’t know, and you don’t want to reach out for help.”

Clare with her family (left to right) Clare, Taylor, Kip, Charlie, and Myla

Clare with her family (left to right) Clare, Taylor, Kip, Charlie, and Myla.

The family of five lived in their pickup until being discovered by an alert police officer, who recognized they were in crisis. He connected them to emergency housing until they could be placed in a shelter, where they lived for several months. With the help of several nonprofits, the family was eventually able to move into an apartment. Clare received financial management and job training, found a well-paying job in the information technology field, and built up a nest egg. In 2020, the family was able to buy a house.

The Power of Partnership

The campaign is powered by a collective of organizations across Arizona, including MAG, the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona Department of Housing, the Arizona Multihousing Association, Arizona State University, the Arizona Housing Coalition, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Cox, Dominium, Home Matters to Arizona, Home Arizona, First Place Phoenix, St. Vincent de Paul, United Way, Arizona Community Foundation, and Valley Leadership Impact Maker.

Funding partners include the Arizona Community Foundation, City of Avondale, Garcia Family Foundation, Home Matters to Arizona, Town of Fountain Hills, Town of Paradise Valley, Valley of the Sun United Way, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and Vitalyst Health Foundation.

All Part of the Plan

Pathways Home CoverA public education campaign was identified as a critical element in the Pathways Home: Regional Homelessness Action Plan for Local and Tribal Governments. The plan was approved by MAG’s Regional Council in December 2021 with the goal to reduce homelessness in the region by 25 percent by 2027.

The plan commits to working together throughout the region, increasing safe housing options, and supporting diverse partnerships to address homelessness.

A full launch of the campaign is expected in the coming weeks. For more information or to join the efforts, visit  

Published March 15, 2023