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Beneficiaries of A New Leaf
Case Study

Helping Arizonans turn a new leaf


Looking for refuge 

After being kicked out of her home, Sheriel found herself on the street with her 1-month-old baby. She spent two weeks sleeping in her car and on a friend’s couch, frantically calling shelter hotlines. Before giving up hope, Sheriel and her baby sought refuge at A New Leaf’s La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter.  

Sheriel is among tens of thousands of people who’ve found life-changing support at A New Leaf after falling on hard times. Founded in 1971, the Arizona-based nonprofit first served children dealing with behavioral issues and substance use. Since then, the organization has grown, now helping individuals experiencing homelessness, domestic and sexual violence, and medical and financial crises. 

A woman carries her toddler son on her shoulders and smiles while enjoying a relaxing walk in a park.

Using an intersectional approach to ending homelessness in a dangerously hot area, A New Leaf relies on talented staff, technology, and the support of its donors to aid every individual in need living in Mesa, Arizona.

A New Leaf's impact at a glance


Struggles in the valley 

Tanner Swanson, marketing manager at A New Leaf, says housing is the number-one challenge in the area. “And it’s compounded by all the other issues we work on,” he explains. “Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children,” he continues, “[So] financial stability, foster care, and all the other services that we provide are heavily linked to that.” 

Meanwhile, the challenges faced in the region are exacerbated by extreme heat. In July 2023, Phoenix saw a 31-day stretch where the maximum temperature rose to 110ºF. Maricopa County, as a whole, witnessed 645 heat-related deaths, a 52% increase from the previous year. Of these fatalities, 45% were among people experiencing homelessness.

Family looks to the camera in front of their house

2024 is expected to be another brutal summer. In preparation, Arizona’s health department has named a statewide heat officer. Additionally, heat response and mitigation plans are underway in Phoenix, the largest metropolitan area in the region.


Pioneering holistic housing services

A New Leaf’s approach is defined by seven pillars of service that address:

  1. Housing and shelter
  2. Domestic violence and sexual violence
  3. Health and wellness
  4. Financial empowerment
  1. Foster care
  2. Education
  3. Family support

A New Leaf’s programs are not meant to be a quick fix, Tanner says. Clients are actively involved in working towards making their lives better. “There are expectations in all of our programs that you work forward and try to change your own life in one way or another.” That, he feels, is how A New Leaf distinguishes itself from other programs in the area.

But the multi-faceted approach to community health requires a highly trained team and volunteers. “What's needed to maintain these services takes top-notch staff. It takes great government partners who fund a lot of these programs. It takes generous community members who donate their time, their food and items, their money to help make the programs possible,” says Tanner.

Currently, A New Leaf serves between 25,000 and 35,000 people annually. Last year, they clocked 43,000 volunteer hours, and provided almost 250,000 meals and over 80,000 nights in shelter to those in need.

A New Leaf stats

Mom and toddler spending time together

Expanding with technology 

Running complex programs means logistical challenges. In 2015, A New Leaf partnered with Bonterra to help make operations more efficient. “The program staff we had been working with previously collected a rich amount of data, but we weren’t using it in a way that allowed us to improve our operations,” Tanner says. 

One of the typical operational challenges they faced was not knowing where to refer someone to. “Some staff weren't even aware other programs existed,” Tanner recalls, “and so it just created a lot of challenges for the client to navigate all of those services.”

Bonterra’s software helped A New Leaf launch a more robust volunteer program, engaging thousands more volunteers. “The software helps keep our volunteers updated about their own impact, takes a lot of administrative burden off of staff, and enables everyone to do more good work for the community.” It also helps steward donors appropriately, which is key for a nonprofit. He adds, “A good software system can keep you on track and accountable for your supporters, and Bonterra does exactly that.”

This, in turn, has increased the number of internal referrals. “And it's increased overall client satisfaction,” Tanner says. “We’ve seen some really great results from the program.”

Mother prepares daughter to go to school


Preparing for the future 

As summer temperatures rise, A New Leaf is busy ramping up housing services to meet demand. The organization recently acquired Homeward Bound, a shelter in downtown Phoenix with over 70 units; the team is also building transitional housing in partnership with the City of Mesa comprised of 30 units. 

“We’re planning on opening up a new affordable housing complex for seniors and veterans, and we just recently opened a shelter over in Surprise called the West Valley Housing Assistance Center, the first family shelter on the west side,” Tanner reports. 

With new projects underway and need increasing, A New Leaf staff, volunteers, and participants have much to look forward to and reflect on. 

“Because of A New Leaf I can have that fresh start I wanted,” says Sheriel. “But I can also say I got here because of me. I put a lot of work in to make the most of this opportunity.” 

A mother and daughter sit together on the stoop, enjoying some quality time.

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