APU Student and Azusa Resident Awarded Hatfield Prize for Homeless Research

Daniel Montoya is a senior pursuing his bachelor’s of social work at Azusa Pacific University (APU) in the city of Azusa, California. Montoya is currently the Vice President of the Latin American Student Association, an ethnic organization at Azusa Pacific University that offers a forum for fellowship, education, and dialogue to encourage the appreciation of cultural diversity. He is currently an intern serving individuals living with chronic homelessness and severe mental illness. Montoya also provides mentorship as a TRiO: Upward Bound Academy leader to first-generation high school students surrounding professional development, academic success, and emotional wellness. A proud Azusa native, Montoya takes pride in his community and has a passion for serving his local school district demonstrated through his mentorship opportunities and previous tutoring experience through the AVID program. Following the completion of his BSW, his goal is to further his education and pursue a master’s of social work. 

Research focus: Daniel is researching chronic homelessness among families with young children in Los Angeles County, California. His research will examine the effectiveness of the supportive housing model and will make recommendations for how government and civil society institutions can best promote stability and flourishing for families as they transition out of homelessness. 

While many choose to turn a blind eye to the growing homeless crisis in the greater Los Angeles area, Montoya decided to use his college education to make a difference. He was recently 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 will receive 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 will publish 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 field internship as a social work major, 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 increase of our homeless population within the city of Azusa from 23 in 2015 to 321 in 2019, I hope that my research sets the stage for how our community can begin addressing chronic homelessness.”

The 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.”

Text courtesy of Anupama Jacob. Please visit https://www.apu.edu/media/news/release/27249/ to view the original article.

Founded in 1978, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) focuses on providing high-quality and collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity. Among the many activities and networking opportunities that CUR provides, the organization also offers support for the professional growth of faculty and administrators through expert-designed institutes, conferences, and a wide-range of volunteer positions. The CUR community, made up of nearly 700 institutions and 13,000 individuals, continues to provide a platform for discussion and other resources related to mentoring, connecting, and creating relationships centered around undergraduate research. CUR’s advocacy efforts are also a large portion of its work as they strive to strengthen support for undergraduate research. Its continued growth in connections with representatives, private foundations, government agencies, and campuses world-wide provides value to its members and gives voice to undergraduate research. CUR is committed to inclusivity and diversity in all of its activities and our community.

CUR focuses on giving a voice to undergraduate research with learning through doing. It provides connections to a multitude of campuses and government agencies, all while promoting networking and professional growth to its community.