Collaborating to Create Solutions

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Collaborating to Create Solutions

Urgently focused on taking action.

This morning the HSC Outreach Team counted 760 unsheltered individuals in our neighborhood. And yes, I say “neighborhood.” It is our neighborhood. It’s the neighborhood of businesses and residents with homes. “The Zone” is not meant to sound positive, dignified, or uplifting. It’s meant to sound derogatory, violent, and negative.

In four spaces on the Human Services Campus, more than 900 people were sheltered last night. The total is 1,760 + people who are experiencing homelessness on Campus and in the neighborhood. This is after the May 10 effort led by the City of Phoenix to engage and identify indoor spaces for 60 people on a small section of 9th Avenue (between Washington and Jefferson Streets).

The media covered the May 10th effort intensely. Many concerned people reached out to HSC before, during, and after the effort to understand what is happening, what the impacts are, and what they can do to help. Here is what we know…

The City of Phoenix is the lead on this engagement activity. HSC is one of several partners assisting through the Outreach Team who is engaging as many of the 760 people as possible on a daily basis. Some 400+ people are actively working with HSC staff and partners on steps to shelter and housing. HSC offers unsheltered people Safe Storage, to provide a secure area on Campus for possessions to be held. We help with transportation to indoor locations, communicating the changes, calming anxiety, and being consistent to build and maintain trust.

The City never intended to do a full “sweep” of 760-800 people on one day. Personally, I avoid calling these efforts “sweeps,” because in other cities that means large encampments are dismantled in one full brush and services are not offered and planned for all of the people being affected. The City of Phoenix is only selecting areas and choosing the dates when they have the appropriate number of indoor spaces available to offer to people.

In messaging shared by the City of Phoenix it is stated that:

“The City of Phoenix is committed to addressing the issues in the area around the Human Services Campus and is urgently focused on taking action to create solutions.

Our multi-pronged strategy involves expediting plans already in place including enhanced engagement, connecting our unsheltered residents with needed resources and services, and increasing those resources to meet the demand.

During our enhanced engagement our teams will be there with a service-driven approach. We focus on one block in the area at a time and work with our nonprofit partners to conduct outreach and offer services to help individuals find an alternative safe location.

After the enhanced engagement is complete, individuals will not be allowed to return to the designated area and crews will clean the street.”

The major difference in these engagement efforts compared to prior cleaning activities in the neighborhood is the posting of “No Camping” signs. The step of preventing people from camping in public spaces is the change. The next engagement effort is May 31, and our staff is prepared to assist. We will be prepared at the rate the City sets to move through our neighborhood. Given the deliberate and appreciated effort to do this with indoor resources available, it will take some amount of time.

While Phoenix and other local jurisdictions are taking steps to create more emergency shelter and housing, the demand for shelter and housing outweighs and grows at a faster pace than the creation of shelter and homes.

The City of Phoenix is acknowledging the issue of homelessness, and one city is certainly not to blame for homelessness. They are also stuck in two lawsuits and an investigation by the Department of Justice.

Myself and HSC do not want to expend energy on assigning blame, nor opining on the status and results of lawsuits and investigations. It is disheartening that “solving homelessness” has landed on the benches of judges. No offense to any judges, however they are trained in law, not in housing, social services, and health.

HSC does want to remain part of short-term solutions for those experiencing homelessness, as well lead/influence/implement long-term solutions for prevention of homelessness, right-sized interventions for those experiencing homelessness, and sufficient inventory and choices in housing for all.

If anyone wants to help, the focus is not on the engagement effort events. It is on the short-term needs that all service providers have every day, and it is on the long-term advocacy and investment in systems change.

Information on HSC and partner organizations may be found here: https://hsc-az.org/services

Every organization needs financial support to continue serving those who need help today. Most organizations also seek in-kind donations and volunteers. Many organizations seek people to join their Boards of Directors to work on long-term strategy. The options to be involved are endless.

That’s the long answer to “what’s happening?” The short answer is, we are collaborating to create solutions to end homelessness at the individual and systems level.

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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