The student-teacher duo are working on better understanding the conditions of chronic family homelessness


The Center for Public Justice (CPJ) announced its recipients of the 2020 Hatfield Prize on Tuesday, two of which are a student-faculty pair from Azusa Pacific, Daniel Montoya and professor Anupama Jacob, Ph.D. 

The Hatfield Prize is an award from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that provides funding to three student-faculty dyads to conduct research on social policies that affect children, family and community wellbeing.  

Montoya, a senior social work major, is an Azusa native whose passion for the field stemmed from unanswered questions dealing with addiction, child custody and homlessness.

“I want to gain the opportunity to walk alongside those experiencing hardship, show them that there is hope,” Montoya said. “There is light at the end of the dark tunnel.”

Montoya’s research will focus on chronic family homelessness in California in hopes of discovering healthy ways that families experiencing chronic homelessness can gain stability and thrive.

Montoya has worked with individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and mental illness. He has come to realize the complexity of the epidemic. In his work, he hopes to address this issue with effective and sustainable solutions.

Though homelessness is a widespread issue throughout Southern California, Montoya chose to focus specifically on homlessness among families with young children because of the negative effects it can have on their psychological, physical and spiritual health and development.

“Homelessness significantly impacts families and can drastically affect their ability to function,” Montoya said. “I primarily want to focus on the subpopulation of families with young children due to the tremendous impact this social environment has on children.”

Assisting him in this process is social work professor Anupama Jacob, who has experience in helping students develop original, empirical research projects in their field of study. 

Montoya is in Jacob’s advanced research class section. The two chose to pursue the Hatfield Prize because of Montoya’s interest in issues involving homelessness as well as his experience interning at the San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health, Homeless and Supportive services program. Both are excited about the upcoming research process and embracing the challenges concerning time management and organization that come along with it.

Jacob’s role as Montoya’s advisor involves assisting him with the development of new research skills, data collection and analysis and the writing and editing of his report to the CPJ.

“I enjoy introducing students to the research process, helping them gain a deeper understanding of the value of research for social work practice and policy, and better appreciating what it means to engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research,” Jacob said. 

Montoya attended an orientation session in Washington D.C. to learn more about the CPJ, further develop his research plan moving forward and learn about the different branches of CPJ. One of these branches is Shared Justice, which he defines as “a collaboration centered on social policy research aimed to educate [young adults].” 

Here, Montoya met Katie Thompson, director of Shared Justice, and had the opportunity to develop a research plan and gain insight and detailed recommendations on how to improve his research process.

Jacob and Montoya began the initial planning phase of their research with hopes to complete the project by May. Their work will be published in September by the CPJ.

Despite his doubts and concerns, Montoya is excited about this opportunity to make a difference in shaping policy surrounding the permanent supportive housing model and improving the lives of families facing chronic homlessness.

“I remind myself that God wouldn’t have made a way for this opportunity if I wasn’t capable,” Montoya said. “I’m ready to give it my all.”