Spotlight on Service: Preventing Homelessness in Maricopa County with Haleigh Owens

Celebrating and learning about those on the frontlines of public service is core to our mission at Roundtable. Roundtable's collaboration platform for government was informed by 300+ interviews with those on the frontlines of issues that impact all of us – from running safe and secure elections to preventing homelessness in our communities. 

The stories of these practitioners are core to our mission at Civic Roundtable. In this series, we will highlight one of their incredible stories each month. 

Meet Haleigh Owens, the powerhouse Human Services Planner at Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), where she plays a critical role in homelessness prevention by supporting the MAG Continuum of Care. In this role, Haleigh connects a diverse network of service providers with funding and policy opportunities informed by both individuals with lived experience and subject matter experts from across the field. Haleigh’s efforts ensure that the policies not only tackle the root causes of homelessness, but also meet the immediate needs of the community in Maricopa County.

We caught up with Haleigh to hear more about her work and story. 

How did you get into this work?

I started off in social work, working with youth in tough situations like aging out of foster care. The more I delved into it, the more I realized the systemic issues at play, especially around homelessness. This inspired me to pursue a masters degree in social work and work on the policy side. Now at MAG, I try to bring my experience as a practitioner and service provider into the policy work I do. 

What are your key priorities and responsibilities on your plate today? 

Broadly speaking, my gig involves a lot of behind-the-scenes policy work to make sure we're supporting folks experiencing homelessness in the best way possible. MAG is the collaborative applicant to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants meaning we apply for funding, organize policy efforts, and basically be the voice of Maricopa County on the federal stage.

As part of my role, I oversee 3 different collaboratives - the Continuum of Care collaborative, the Lived Experience collaborative, and Youth/Young Adult collaborative. Through these collaboratives, I ensure that their needs are reflected in our grant applications, funding opportunities, and policy recommendations. These collaboratives also work on big-picture problems that cut across multiple providers. For example, the Lived Experienced collaborative put together a Shelter Bill of Rights that will be displayed in all the shelters and help those staying at the shelter to know their rights.

You've got passion, Haleigh! What keeps you motivated, especially when the going gets tough?

Honestly, it's the youth and young adults I work with. Their resilience and creativity inspire me every day. It’s an honor to be the one to elevate their voices to be heard on a larger stage. They have great recommendations on policy improvements. For example, they advised on a new program the YMCA was creating for youth experiencing homelessness

A big focus for me this year is how to continue to elevate their stories. There is a lot of stigma around those experiencing homelessness and we want to create a campaign raising awareness and empathy. It's all about showing folks that homelessness can happen to anyone and fostering a sense of empathy in our community. 

Collaboration seems key in your line of work. How do you make it happen?

Collaboration is our bread and butter. We bring together providers, folks with lived experiences, advocates for racial equity—you name it. It's all about sharing resources, swapping stories, and working together to find solutions in our community. One organization themselves cannot do it but when 10 organizations come together and each take a piece then we can accomplish anything. Together, we're stronger! 

And how does Roundtable fit into all of this?

Ah, Roundtable's our secret weapon! It's like our virtual watercooler where we gather to swap ideas and keep the conversations going. We are currently using it for the youth providers, helping case managers keep connected to opportunities and policy-makers stay close to the front-lines. Whether it's sharing resources or brainstorming solutions, Roundtable keeps us connected and on track.

Lastly, any advice for budding advocates looking to follow in your footsteps?

Start small, stay passionate, and remember your best success case or what drove you to the work. Don't forget to take care of yourself along the way! Burnout's a real thing!

Thanks for reading! Know someone we should cover in this series? Reach out at: