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The Budget Center communications team chatted with Monica Davalos (she/her), Senior Policy Analyst at the Budget Center, who conducts research on the intersection of homelessness, housing, and health.

This Q&A series is your chance to get to know our team, their areas of expertise, and how their work at the Budget Center supports policy change in California. In this conversation, we’ll explore Monica’s recent efforts to help ensure all Californians have an affordable and stable place to call home.

This interview was edited by Kat Petsalis, Communications Strategist at the Budget Center.

Can you tell us about your role at the Budget Center?

I’m a Senior Policy Analyst at the Budget Center, where I’ve worked for five years now. I focus primarily on housing and homelessness with an emphasis on affordable housing and renters, who are among the most vulnerable populations in California. Recently, I’ve been doing more work around homelessness and its intersection with health and housing. I work closely with my supervisor, Alissa, and frequently collaborate with Adriana, our health expert, due to the overlapping nature of our issue areas.

Homelessness and housing have become critical issues in California, providing numerous opportunities for impactful work. Personally, I find these issues compelling due to their intersectionality with economic security, health, employment, education, and overall well-being. Stable, safe, and quality housing is fundamental to an individual’s life, making this work deeply meaningful.

What inspired your passion for research and public policy?

Since college, I have known I wanted to dive into public policy research. The more I learned about our systems and public policy, the more I realized how intentional some harmful policy choices have been historically, creating disparities across nearly every facet of our lives. Understanding the data and research behind these issues can shift narratives and challenge personal biases, which I find incredibly powerful and necessary for substantive policy change. Quantifying experiences can help those who might never encounter certain hardships understand and empathize, leading to meaningful change.

My personal motivations are deeply rooted in my background. My parents are immigrants — my mom from Nicaragua and my dad from Mexico — which has shaped me into a person committed to serving others. Growing up with a single mom and experiencing poverty and housing instability firsthand, I witnessed my mom working double shifts just to make ends meet. This shouldn’t be the norm for anyone. Living in predominantly Latino communities, I saw how systems exploit people and how fear prevents many from advocating for themselves.

These personal experiences drove my desire to fight for broader societal changes. Even now, I see how systemic failures affect my parents as they age and how financial instability persists. This reality fuels my work, particularly in exploring older adult homelessness. People who struggled from a young age often face continued financial vulnerability, leading to homelessness later in life. I am motivated by my family’s experiences and those of my community to fight for policies that uplift everyone and provide genuine opportunities for all.

You just completed a master’s program at Sacramento State! Can you share more about the program and why you chose it?

Yes! I recently completed the Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program at Sacramento State. I chose this program for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to strengthen my skills as a researcher. Second, the program’s unique aspect is its dual focus on both public policy and administration; many programs make you choose between one or the other. This administrative component provides a deeper understanding of how high-level public policies are carried out and implemented. It helps ensure that the original intent of the policy is effectively realized.

Having both perspectives — policy creation and implementation — enables the development of better policies. Often, those with the most expertise aren’t the ones crafting policy, leading to discrepancies during implementation that affect people’s lives. The MPPA program addresses this by providing a comprehensive view of the entire policy process. Additionally, the program has expanded my professional network. Many of my peers work in the capital, for state agencies, or in various sectors related to public policy, so engaging with them and understanding their perspectives has been incredibly beneficial for my education and future career.

What is something exciting you have worked on or are currently working on?

I find much of my work around homelessness particularly exciting and meaningful because it helps to challenge harmful narratives and internal biases about who experiences homelessness. Despite the existing data and personal stories, many people, including those in power, hold misconceptions about homelessness. Continuously working to change these perceptions is crucial.

What’s one thing you can’t get through the workday without?

Honestly, I just need either a cup of coffee or a matcha and my Spotify Daylist and that’s what gets me through the day!

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Outside of work, I like a lot of activities that keep me both active and engaged with my community. I love going on walks, attending spin classes, and participating in various group exercise classes. On weekends, I typically visit family or spend time with friends, exploring random events around Sacramento. I love discovering and attending community events, which helps me stay connected to the local culture.

Media Contacts

Kyra Moeller
Communications Strategist

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