APU Social Work Graduate’s Research on Homelessness Makes Impact

by Nathan Foster '20

As one of only two institutions in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities classified as an R2: Doctoral University with high research activity, Azusa Pacific University student and faculty researchers offer solutions to address society's challenges. This commitment to research is matched by APU’s dedication to advancing inclusive academic excellence as a designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). The result produces scholarship with impact that garners national recognition for APU through the work of students like Daniel Montoya ’20.

With the growing homeless crisis in the greater Los Angeles area, Montoya, who graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Social Work degree from APU, decided to use his college education to make a difference. Montoya was awarded the Hatfield Prize by the Center for Public Justice (CPJ) to conduct research on the reintegration of families who have experienced chronic homelessness and are living or have lived under the permanent supportive housing model. Montoya received a $5,000 grant to fund his research under the guidance of faculty advisor Anupama Jacob, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Social Work Findings from their semester-long research project were published in a public policy report by the CPJ. Montoya and Jacob are the first social work team from APU to receive the Hatfield Prize.

“I am blessed with the opportunity to conduct research and develop a report that will positively impact social policy in support of chronically homeless families,” Montoya said. “As a first-generation college student, APU has given me the chance to make a difference within my community while developing research skills.”

Within his social work field internship, Montoya gained valuable experience working with homeless individuals, many affected with mental illness. While working with clients in the field, he learned more about the supportive housing model – affordable, subsidized housing that provides on-site services to promote stability, dignity, and long-term independence. The services are designed to build tenancy skills and connect people with community-based health care, treatment, and employment services.

“I want to help change the perceptions and attitudes of society toward the homeless. Every individual experiencing hardship has their own unique story, and the Lord has given them the right to change the course of their lives,” Montoya said. “With the significant increase in the homeless population within my hometown of Azusa over the last five years, I hope that my research sets the stage for how our community can begin addressing chronic homelessness.”

The Hatfield Prize is annually awarded to three faculty-student dyads from Council of Christian Colleges & Universities schools. Recipients conduct research on social policy that impacts the well-being of children, families, and communities while integrating their faith to the issue they choose to study. “I’m excited for what this prize means for Danny and our social work program,” Jacob said. “Our students are doing extensive social impact research in their classes, which is rare for undergraduate students. This award shows the high level of research we’re conducting within the program.”