Voices need to speak up.
It has been seven days since my last post and 14 weeks since I lost my sense of smell (thanks COVID).
In searching for some meaning of it being 2/22/22…. May I share a list of 22 points/thoughts/facts:
- Last count in our neighborhood is 735 unsheltered individuals, while sheltering over 600.
- We monitor data and look for guidance as it seems the rest of the community has relaxed all COVID protocols. Masks and distancing are still encouraged for congregate settings, like the Human Services Campus day and overnight spaces.
- Why is it still important for us to protect and create a healthy space? In January nearly 3,300 people accessed the Campus for services. They are vulnerable. We have done well with keeping COVID positivity rates low. We want that to continue.
- Phoenix “winter” means a day of 70 degrees and sun, and then a day of clouds, wind, and a high of 60. Tomorrow’s forecasted high is 52 with a 90% chance of precipitation. This makes me more grateful for my home, vehicle, layers of clothing, socks, and an umbrella.
- Today I watched through my office window as a gust of wind lifted the tarps and tents. Imagine a sea of bright colors – blue, red, green. Nylon and plastic tied to tent stakes and fences. The wind blows in and tents bubble up. The fabric stretches. I hold my breath as I watch and hope nothing is lifted off the ground to blow further into downtown Phoenix.
- Today there was music playing outside of that same window for most of the day. Someone’s play list that switched from 70’s R&B to 80’s rock and dance, and then music I didn’t recognize. Sometimes a person loudly singing along. At other times people dancing on the sidewalk.
- And a mere 6-ish blocks away the Arizona State Legislature is in session. This year there are multiple bills addressing housing and homelessness. Some are stronger than others.
- To disrupt systems and rebuild new ones for equitable housing and healthcare, voices need to speak up. If you live in Arizona, you can track bills at azleg.gov, and I highly recommend following the Arizona Housing Coalition.
- Disrupting with authenticity and integrity is not for the faint of heart. Staying true to a mission and purpose may have its moments of impatience.
- Taking the high ground remains my goal. Practicing meditation seems to help with this. Offering grace and peace to others helps. I wish my younger self had approached life this way.
- In practicality in advocating for policy change this means not trading the safety of people who are unsheltered and unhoused for possible votes related to funding. Being unhoused is not illegal. Criminalizing the resourcefulness of people who are living in those tents is not a solution to ending individual or system homelessness.
- Lawmakers were elected, in theory, to represent everyone. That means people who are unsheltered and unhoused matter too. Some seem to forget this along the way. We need electeds to find the “both, and.” We need both shelter options and housing options; we need to help people to stay housed.
- While the debates in the State Capitol will continue for days and months, individuals will continue to lose their housing. It will continue to take us months to help people find housing to move into because there is not enough inventory. There is American Rescue Plan funding sitting on a table somewhere in State government. It shouldn’t be held for legislative action, it should be invested now.
- I wonder if those of us working in this social impact sector will be able to continue the conversation about houselessness is a public health issue “after” COVID. To me it is imperative, or we risk returning to the Before Times mentality and managing homelessness.
- I am grateful for a Board of Directors that understands this and wants to work on solutions to homelessness. They want to understand and learn. They want to advocate. For those on the Board who might read this, thank you.
- A new space for day time respite and overnight shelter is on the horizon, as the “Sprung Structure” is almost ready for occupancy. If you are local, stay tuned as we will have a ribbon cutting and open house when it’s ready to be seen.
- The City of Phoenix is coming through with additional amenities for ongoing respite – toilets and heat relief. The expanding partnership with City Staff is appreciated and meaningful.
- We are learning that 24/7 hours in the Welcome Center creates a safe space. People can connect with staff, with crisis services. My mind wanders to envision what happened before? Maybe nothing in the middle of the night, maybe violence, maybe loss of life.
- People experiencing homelessness, those who are unhoused and unsheltered, they have that experience 24 hours per day. There are no breaks, there is no end of the day, there is no weekend without obligations.
- And unplanned, just seen on the news, an ad from gubernatorial candidate, K.L., … well, she just said she is going to “attack” issues including homelessness…. and “remove homeless from our parks and streets.” I look forward to learning what that means and how she plans to do so…. the message certainly doesn’t sound kind, human-centered, or solutions-oriented.
- And, this is why for those who want to help and ask, I always say “advocacy.” We need voices and action at the municipal, state and federal levels. It doesn’t matter where you live. Look up what your city council is voting on; follow the state legislative process. If you want to make it easier on yourself look for a local coalition or association. There is no change if we sit on the sidelines, or in this case on the sidewalks with those who are unhoused. The change is through action.
- Housing is healthcare. Homelessness is a public health crisis, Before COVID, through COVID and whatever comes next.
22 on the 22nd of the year 2022. If you read the whole list, thank you.
And for your ear worm, when I remind myself to keep taking the high ground, I often hear this song in my head – Stevie Wonder, “Higher Ground” – “I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then; Gonna’ keep on tryin; ‘Til I reach my highest ground.”
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.