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Five Questions with Vanessa Fry

Vanessa Fry

Dr. Vanessa Crossgrove Fry serves as the Interim Director of the Idaho Policy Institute and is an Assistant Research Professor in the School of Public Service. Before joining the Idaho Policy Institute, Vanessa served as the Assistant Director for the Public Policy Research Center and Policy Innovation Fellow for the City of Boise where she conducted a feasibility assessment on using Pay for Success financing to address issues associated with chronic homelessness.

In our “Five Questions” feature we ask scholars, activists, and public officials five short questions about their work (and other things).

You’re the new Interim Director of the Idaho Policy Institute (IPI). What excites you about this new position?

We’ve recently begun a strategic planning process, and I’m excited for the IPI team to chart out the organization’s future. I believe in the potential of IPI to continue to scale its efforts to be a research resource for decision-makers across Idaho, and with IPI’s excellent staff I know this is possible.

You’ve been in the news a fair amount lately for your work on housing and homelessness. What about that work are you most proud of?

I’m grateful to have had so many opportunities to provide research for decision makers addressing issues related to housing and homelessness – and to see the direct impact of that research. For instance, my research supported the creation of New Path Community Housing, a 40-unit building that provides housing and supportive services for individuals formerly experiencing homelessness. IPI is also the long-term evaluator of the project, and the first annual evaluation demonstrated the community experienced over $1.3 million in savings and cost-avoidance and that the overall well-being of individuals living in New Path has improved.

COVID-19 is surely posing special challenges to folks who work in housing and homeless services. What are you hearing from your partners in the community?

Leaders in the valley have done an impressive job addressing housing issues as they relate to COVID-19. For instance, immediately after the March stay at home order, stakeholders in Ada County began working to decrease the population of individuals and families in emergency shelters through a partnership with local hotels. The population of people experiencing homelessness is very vulnerable to health issues, due to their lack of consistent and secure shelter and a myriad of other issues. The pandemic has made it even more evident the positive impact secure housing can have on someone’s overall health and well-being.

IPI also engages in research on other issues including transportation, education, health, and workforce development. How much crossover between these topics do you experience in your research?

IPI sees a tremendous amount of cross-over in these seemingly disparate sectors. For instance, without a robust, affordable multi-modal transportation system, people are unable to access job and educational opportunities. This may lead to lower wages and an inability to afford housing options proximate to employment centers.

family working out
“Morning Ninja Warrior Workouts” at the Fry home

Speaking of COVID-19, you’ve also received a little fame recently for your family’s “morning ninja warrior workouts” over Zoom. What can you tell us about those?

When the stay-at-home order began in March, my husband and I really wanted to make sure our two girls could keep a routine and also stay connected to friends. The warm-up was one result. My husband hosted a Zoom session three days a week where he led a “ninja”-inspired workout for attendees. We had friends as far away as Spain joining us. We would all do the workout and then the kids (and adults too) could talk with one another. It was really a great way to enable us all to continue being connected with our friends in a light-hearted way.