DATE: September 12, 2023

Report: Tucsonans want fixes for homelessness, affordable housing

Reimagining Community Safety Survey reveals that residents want proactive solutions to big challenges

TUCSON, AZ – Just Communities Arizona (JCA) has released the findings of an extensive, groundbreaking survey of more than 1,200 Tucsonans that make it clear they understand that real safety is much more than responding to crime. JCA’s Reimagining Community Safety Survey asked people from each of Tucson’s six wards for answers to a series of questions with a collective theme: How do we create greater safety in our communities?

“Our research shows Tucsonans want local leaders to prioritize basic needs and equity if they want to create safer communities,” said JCA Executive Director Caroline Isaacs, who co-produced the report with JCA Policy & Research Manager Rahul Jayaraman. “If you don’t have a roof over your head, enough food to eat, or health care, then you aren’t safe.”

To that point: Survey results show that residents want resources invested to create more affordable housing options and that homelessness is the top concern for Tucsonans. Twenty-one percent (21%) of all respondents identified homelessness as their primary community concern, and it remained the top concern across demographic backgrounds. When asked where they want resources invested to create greater community safety, affordable housing topped the list, chosen by 52.1 percent of respondents. 

The second most prominent concern cited by respondents was inequality. This reflects not only a consensus among Tucsonans that there is widespread inequality in our community but also an acknowledgment that this problem needs to be addressed. 

The survey was funded through a Catalyst grant from The Urban Institute and Microsoft, as well as additional funding from the City of Tucson.

Executive Researcher Rebecca Fealk and eight community-based co-researchers did outreach into all six Tucson wards—from South Tucson to the Catalina Foothills—for nine months through August 2022, conducting both in-person engagement in public spaces, such as parks and in front of grocery stores, and via an online survey portal. Respondent demographics mirrored U.S. Census data.

The issue of policing as it relates to community safety was practically an afterthought for survey respondents. Only 4 out of the entire 1,206 responses named “public safety” as a top concern. The research also suggests that Tucson residents by and large do not view law enforcement as a solution to the problems they face. Only 4% stated that they want “more police” in their communities.

Relatedly, JCA researchers also found that 38 percent of respondents are directly impacted by the punishment system, meaning they or a loved one or family member have a conviction or arrest history.

Five questions within the survey specifically asked about the confidence Tucsonans have in law enforcement and the court system to equitably address issues of race, substance use, and mental health disorders. In all of them, the majority of respondents expressed little to no confidence in those institutions.

When asked what the City should prioritize to address racial disparities, participants identified the three most important policies as:

  1. community-centered alternatives to incarceration (44%);

  2. more accessible mental health and substance abuse services (39%);

  3. and more affordable housing (36%).

“People are ready for a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of social problems, like substance misuse, mental illness, and unequal access to basic resources,” Isaacs said.

To view the full results of the survey, go to: An executive summary of the survey is also available in both English and Spanish.


JCA is an Arizona-based nonprofit that works to create, foster, and resource new models for safety and justice outside the punishment system.