Achieve the Mission

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Achieve the Mission

Then the possibilities are endless.

It’s been 18 days since my last post and about 48 weeks since losing my sense of smell. I recently did smell garlic and someone else’s coffee breath. Not really anything that makes me super optimistic about new scents rising quickly.

I didn’t realize it’s been nearly three weeks since writing. Work-life is back to the pace of meetings in person, driving between places, virtual meetings, and driving places. It makes me miss a bit of the “pandemic days” and staying in one location all day.

Autumn is reflected on the Human Services Campus through less hours of daylight, the timing on the exterior lighting in need of adjustment. I noticed on the evening walk to the car that there is a slight waft of cooler air on the ground and a radiation of heat from the concrete walls. The sunsets are incredibly beautiful. And the number of unsheltered witnessing the seasonal change from the streets is virtually static at about 1,000. This is nearly three times the number of unsheltered in October of 2021, when the number of sheltered on Campus was less than it is today. We observe more people living in vehicles.

The phone calls and emails continue with requests from people of all demographics and household situations at their wits’ end

The effects of rising housing costs, increased evictions, constant population growth, and wages that are not enough to afford basic living expenses are real.

And in the midst of an election frenzy, candidates are at least discussing housing and homelessness. Even though some don’t appear to have invested any time in visiting local organizations nor speaking with people living unhoused. Some of the statements imply that service providers assisting humans who are unhoused and unsheltered are causing and creating homelessness, or causing episodes of houselessness to last longer.

I know of not one employee nor organization that wants people to be unhoused/unsheltered longer than necessary. Now sometimes we disagree on service philosophy; and sometimes contractual requirements cause processes and programs to be slow. None of us want humans to suffer. Some organizations do have a stronger or sole focus on serving those who are in need without an impetus to also work on long-term, systems change to prevent further homelessness.

I had several conversations in the last couple of weeks about nonprofits and their mission statements. Many mission statements are written in regards to “ending” something. Ending homelessness. Ending hunger. And some of these organizations behave at times in contradictory ways, meaning they tend to avoid advocating for long-term systems change. Which leaves some of us wondering why? what are organizations afraid of? Are they afraid of achieving their mission?

I have said to some peers that we have nothing to fear if we achieve our mission. If the fear is that employees will lose their jobs because we end homelessness, or volunteers will have no purpose if there are no unhoused people to assist, I say employees and volunteers will be able to find another job or another place to support.

If we end homelessness and employees have to update their resume to say their job ended because the organization’s mission was achieved, I’m pretty sure those employees will be hirable for other work. If a volunteer can walk away from serving at an organization because they helped to achieve the mission, I’m confident they can move on to another societal issue with their head held high.

At the Human Services Campus, we have a tremendous amount of assets in facilities and human capital. If we “end” homelessness, heck if we achieve functional zero and have an efficient homelessness crisis response system in the Valley, then we can repurpose our spaces to serve other populations. We could be home to a technical school or community college, we could be a community center or a job training site. The possibilities are endless.

I refuse to operate from a place of fear, especially when it comes to being afraid of mission achievement. Humans are counting on us to do our jobs and help them find homes. Humans who are not homeless yet are counting on us to be there for them when the unpredictable happens and crisis hits.

The day-to-day may be overwhelming with the demands for services increasing, yet I remain optimistic because there are enough of us to focus on systems change. There are enough of us who are risk-takers and aren’t afraid to achieve our mission.

Have no fear.

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.

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