12,000 People in 12 Months

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

12,000 People in 12 Months

Coaching, Crying, Cursing, and Molasses

It’s been a week.

A week to test patience, to stretch the limits, to coach and mentor, to be coached and mentored, to receive, and to give. At times it felt like walking through molasses, (not that I have ever literally walked through molasses), just feeling a slow, stuck-ness in moments of thinking internally, “what the actual bleep?”

The number of positive client cases of COVID continues at rates that we haven’t seen in maybe a year. I have been thinking about what is different. Last year there was a stay at home order, a mask mandate, a sense of general vigilance in protecting oneself and others from a deadly virus. This summer we had no stay at home orders, no mask mandates, no Safe Outdoor Space near the Human Services Campus for people to legitimately camp. With a pendulum swing to no one seemingly isolating at home, the unhoused are in a greater mix of people. While they didn’t have a home to isolate in last year, they were swirling in smaller circles of humanity.

We have a constant churn of clients. The “inflow” of new people mixing with the return visitors creates a storm of activity and 13-acre petri dish. Our first glance of fiscal year data (July 2020 through June 2021) is that more than 12,000 unduplicated individuals visited the Campus and received at least one service.

12,000 people.

We continue to follow PPE policies and physical distancing, limiting people indoors. Testing and vaccinating. Cleaning and sanitizing.

And we talk amongst partners as to what else we can do. More frequent phone calls, huddles to update and share, strategize and coordinate.

One evening while working to transport a client to the isolation hotel, there was a series of kerfluffles because the client uses a power chair. No night time transport company was available with the capacity to move a power chair. We arranged one-night of sleeping in a classroom. Then the power went out.

Nearly 700 people attempting to go to sleep in buildings whilst it is over 100 degrees outside and no power. Messages fly around seeking generators for fans, off site places that we could transport the most vulnerable.

Staff eventually convince the client to go to the hotel without her power chair, indicating we will make sure she gets it the next day.

Fortunately with a Board member at the local utility, I can text and ask for status on the power outage. Magically we were back online in faster time than expected.

Talking to this client with the power chair made me want to cry, as she cried. Her journey has been filled with heartache and medical issues. She apologized to me for being upset. She waited five hours for transportation to the isolation hotel. She is strong and resilient.

Twice this week I heard statements that implied the HSC was maybe not moving fast enough on some work, or that we were going to take too long to meet deadlines. Both coming from conversations related to processes that took two years and were out of our control.

There are no people who want solutions for shelter and housing faster than those of us at the HSC. Monday morning started with news of a death outside of our property likely due to a drug overdose. Thursday night ended with a client crying and a Campus-wide power outage.
I promise none of us want things to move slowly, like molasses.

We are strong and resilient. The employees that keep everything going with deep concern and compassion. They are strong and resilient.

Sometimes I want to cry. Sometimes I feel like I should be crying and I can’t. Sometimes I wonder if I am out of tears. Many times I curse to myself (usually repeating a cuss word three times quickly). Then I take a deep breath. And then it’s one foot in front of the other.

That’s all I know so far.

About the Human Services Campus

Founded in 2005, the Human Services Campus is a collaborative force of partner organizations united on one campus to end homelessness. Located just west of downtown Phoenix, 16 independent agencies on the Campus see nearly 1,000 individuals every day, offering a holistic range of client services including: reunification with family and friends; mental, physical and dental health; shelter; employment; meals; legal services and housing. Having all of these resources in one location with intra-agency communications makes it more feasible to provide a customized engagement for each client to help end their homelessness. For more information, visit www.hsc-az.org.

View the 2020-2021 Annual Report

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