Interview with Lauren Hyre, NSWM 1st Year Policy Fellow

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you work?

A: My name is Lauren Hyre, and I am a licensed master social worker. I have a Bachelor’s degree in social work from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and a Master’s degree in social work from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I work for the City of Tempe in Tempe, Arizona in the Human Services Department. Currently, I manage the adult diversion, probation, and home detention programs. I have also worked with the crisis response team, treatment courts, victim services, and veteran services with the City of Tempe.

Q: What attracted you to the NSWM Policy Fellowship Program?

A: Social work is, by nature, a political career. It is part of a social workers’ role to participate in policy advocacy, development, and analysis. I have always been interested in policy and governance. Unfortunately, without much guidance and experience, it is hard to enter this arena within social work and affect positive change. I was interested in the NSWM Policy Fellowship Program because I wanted an opportunity to gain experience in policy research and activities. Additionally, the mentorship component was attractive and important to me.

Q: Who is your mentor?

A: Todd Rofuth is my mentor! He has been a fantastic resource for me, even all the way from Connecticut!

Q: What has the mentorship experience taught you?

A: I find mentorship to be vital to career and personal development. It is a form of continuing education. The mentorship experience has validated this and reminded me how important lifelong learning is. Todd has helped me think critically about social issues, and define the problem in a factual, rather than anecdotal, way. He has helped me to think about how to advocate for solutions and deliver the message in a way that can heard by policy makers. It has been an incredibly valuable experience so far.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your final poster project. What policy issue are you focusing on?

A: I’m working on a project that addresses affordable housing, specifically the implementation of community benefits agreements to increase affordable housing, living wages, and environmental protections.

Q: Why did you select that particular issue? What do you hope everyone will get out of your presentation?

A: Housing is the number one issue that the City’s Human Services Department faces, and the biggest barrier for the large majority of our social service recipients. Almost ¼ of residents of Tempe are living in poverty, and the number is significantly higher for families with young children. Tempe has no affordable housing, and rental rates constantly rise as the community gentrification continues. So many individuals and families living in poverty are unable to maintain the rent, so they face evictions and homelessness. The current solutions are costly and short-term – federally controlled (and disappearing) rental vouchers, emergency rental assistance, and homeless shelters. These are all expensive, short-term, reactive solutions. I wanted to look at creative and sustainable, intermediate and long-term solutions for affordable housing that involve the community (local government, public/private/non-profit agencies, businesses, and residents). This is a timely conversation, as the City Council is feeling the effects of gentrification and the community is demanding a resolution. I hope that I can create a conversation around the necessity for community involvement in housing solutions, and that I can take my research to Tempe City Council to propose a workgroup dedicated to community benefits agreements.

Q: What advice would you give to those who are currently thinking about applying to the NSWM Policy Fellows Program?

A: Social workers do not get enough training in policy advocacy and research. It’s unfortunate, but we MUST seek our own education in order to advocate for human rights, social justice, and the development of the profession. I would recommend the Policy Fellows Program for anyone looking for a way to learn more about policy development and to have the opportunity to work with a mentor. I have found the program to be very beneficial to my professional development, and I’m excited to continue!

About the author

Lauren Hyre is a professional social worker with direct service, clinical, and community-based experience in public, private, and non-profit sectors. Lauren has worked with diverse populations including refugees, mental health, justice-involved, homeless, and older adults. Currently, she works as a Social Services Supervisor with the City of Tempe’s Human Services Department Adult Diversion, Probation and Home Detention Program, and provides services in the City’s treatment courts. Lauren is passionate about public service and a champion for social justice, and has dedicated her life to advocating for marginalized populations. Lauren is interested in issues related to women’s rights, health care access, affordable housing, economic security, restorative justice and criminal justice reform, and civil rights. Lauren received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of North Dakota, and is currently a Licensed Master Social Worker through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. Lauren was appointed as a member of Tempe’s Veterans Commission in 2017, and is a recipient of the 2017-2018 Network for Social Work Management Policy Fellowship. Outside of her social work practice, Lauren enjoys practicing yoga, riding horses, and spending time with her family and her animals.

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