ASU/Westward Ho Partnership

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There’s a new partnership that will help provide educational experiences and help for elderly residents of a Phoenix landmark. Arizona State University’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and developers of the Westward Ho building have entered an agreement that will provide limited medical checks and other services for the residents of the building and educational opportunities for students in various fields of study at ASU. Dr. Michael S. Shafer, professor of Social Work and director of the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, will discuss the new program.

Ted Simons: Developers of the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix are partnering with ASU to provide medical help and other services for the elderly residents. Here now to explain the partnership is Dr. Michael Schafer, professor of social work and director of ASU's center for applied behavioral health policy. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Michael Shafer: My pleasure.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about this partnership. What's going on as far as -- it sounds like it's a good educational opportunity and a good opportunity for those folks to get some needed services?

Michael Shafer: It's a win-win all the way around. With the westward ho being across the street from the downtown campus, we recognized a need. 300 residents live in that home. Plenty of students who are in need of good training opportunities, social work students, nursing students, etc.

Ted Simons: What kind of services will be offered?

Michael Shafer: We are establishing a clinic that will be student staffed and faculty supervised, involving students in our social work department, recreational therapy, nutrition and nursing and we're creating an inter-professional clinic that will meet some of the unmet needs of the tenants that live in that building.

Ted Simons: Interesting. ASU nursing students, aren't they already working over there?

Michael Shafer: They are. Nursing has had a very small but long-standing presence. They have undergraduate nursing students that are over there. One or two days a week, for a few hours. We found in a study that one of our doctoral students did a couple of years ago with 50 of the residents, those tenants have surprisingly good access to healthcare. What they don't have good access to is a lot of social engagement activities. We found the tenants there largely isolated, lonely, etc. A lot of what we would call social disorganization issues that results in our police and fire department in 2012 making 600 roll-outs to that property. That's decreased over time but still there's a lot of social issues there to help these tenants address.

Ted Simons: We should mention who these tenants are. These the elderly preference affordable housing group. What does that actually mean?

Michael Shafer: The property owners here have an agreement with the housing and urban development, the federal government. All the tenants who live there are on a government-subsidized, a low-income, a section-eight voucher. The type of voucher that these tenants have though do not provide sufficient funding for the property owners to provide a lot of on-site support services. These individuals are tenants of the property. They're not residents. Big difference there.

Ted Simons: Interesting. And ASU will be leasing parts of the property?

Michael Shafer: We're leasing 15,000 square feet on the ground floor so there's no displacement of any tenants. This was largely vacant space on the ground floor of the property, that space is currently in the process of being converted. We're going to do four things with that property. One, we're going to create this inter-professional clinic to provide training opportunities for our students. Second, we will move the center that I direct, center for applied behavioral health policy and a new center that we're establishing in the area of child welfare, our students, staff and faculty that work in those centers will be officed in that space. Third, we turn what is called the concha room, which is this wonderful cocktail lounge.

Ted Simons: I've heard about it. A lot of things at the Westward Ho.

Michael Shafer: So the concha room is being converted into a dedicated training and community engagement space. We do a lot of continuing education for probation officers, mental health counselors, addiction counselors, etc. and we always want to hold those training opportunities and community meetings on ASU property. We have such a precious little amount of space here and, of course, our space needs have to go first and foremost to our student needs.

Ted Simons: As far as time table, nursing students that are already over there, I'm sure renovation needs to be done, what are we looking at?

Michael Shafer: We're about 60% of the way in the demolition work that's occurring. Our goal is to get ourselves moved and in established late July, middle of August.

Ted Simons: What kind of response are you getting so far from the property manager, the owner, the tenants?

Michael Shafer: The response has been overwhelming. I've enjoyed over the nine years that we've been cultivating this initiative to really establish a nice relationship with the owners who are based in Rhode Island. The ownership of that property is a company that's based out of Rhode Island. They've held the property since 1979. They've been a little bit nervous about us ivory towered academics and our well-intending students coming in and creating chaos for their 300 tenants. So that relationship continues to grow. One of the principal owners and I have a deep, abiding relationship. The tenants, their biggest concern as you may remember, when ASU was considering a move downtown, there was some original discussion plans that that could potentially become our dormitory. That didn't happen, and so the tenants' biggest concern is you guys are going to move us out. We want you to stay in place because it provides a great opportunity, that's been wonderful. We've had the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to meet with the action alliance and the downtown voices coalition and the response from the community has been just overwhelmingly supportive.

Ted Simons: Well, as you describe it, it does seem like it's a win-win, especially for those folks who could use a little bit of social engagement, not to mention medical assistance, as well. But the Westward Ho, but the history of that place, it's phenomenal, isn't it?

Michael Shafer: It is, and that's one of the things that I've grown to appreciate. Built in 1928. It was originally the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The first property to have air conditioning. It was the place to be, three presidents stayed there, Al Capone stayed there, two great trivia pieces I've heard, the last time that president John Kennedy was checked into that hotel, there was a certain individual checked in at the San Carlos with a monogram of M.M.

Ted Simons: M.M. was? Oh! All right, searching for all kinds of communists and mafia people. If anyone has a problem with it, I don't know what's going on there because it sounds, at least on the surface, this sounds really like a nice thing to do and a good opportunity for students, as well. Thank you very much.

Michael Shafer: Thank you Ted.

Ted Simons: Friday on "Arizona Horizon," it's the Journalists' Roundtable, the same-sex marriage case that could impact Arizona. And renovations at the state House of Representatives continue to raise eyebrows. Those stories and more Friday on the Journalists' Roundtable. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Dr. Michael S. Shafer:Professor and Director, Social Work and Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy in College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University;

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