11% over the Last 12 Months

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

11% over the Last 12 Months

Does anyone have a job where you received an 11% increase in pay in the last year?

It’s been 21 days since my last post and 32 weeks since losing my sense of smell. No new scents on top of bleach, citrus cleaning supplies, and some chemicals; I fear that I am growing used to the inability to smell beloved coffee and chocolate.

And I am not unhoused. I am privileged enough that I could take a break. I didn’t plan to not write for three weeks. After an overscheduled week, the husband and I went on a week’s vacation, and then I spent a week digging through the work that accumulated. No complaints, no regrets. We had a week in clean, fresh, crisp air in the Lake Tahoe area. It was our first time there, and we soaked up every minute.

As usual, it took me about 2 1/2 days to really disconnect from the phone and its apps, work, and to overcome the guilt of not working.” Life for me at the Human Services Campus really is a vocation not a job. Investing in myself, my relationship with my husband, and recharging is necessary for the long-term health and success of all of us. And the physical distance from the unending demand for services by people experiencing homelessness, gave me the space to reflect in a different way on the status of things, the challenges, and the opportunities. And the literal reflection in the Lake… that natural beauty is a healing balm for the spirit and soul.

In the last week, I’ve grasped at mind travel to feel that balm, to see that reflection, to breathe fresh air, and to maintain some sense of Zen. It’s tricky as Phoenix days hit over 100 degrees with relatively high monsoon humidity. Like many others, I walk outside in the shady spots. (If you know, you know.) There is a level of parking strategy, seeking shade-covered areas, and calculating the trade-off of time spent walking outside versus heat reduction in the car. I am privileged to have a car with remote start to give myself about eight minutes of cooling time before I sit on scorching seats.

And I’m not complaining. I have no regrets. I am not unhoused.

Folks didn’t end homelessness while I was away. There are still over 800 unsheltered individuals in the Campus neighborhood, with nearly 900 sheltered people in buildings. The calls and emails continue from people of all types of living situations seeking assistance. Rents continue to rise at levels that are not manageable. For my own employees, I can’t provide an annual increase at a rate that covers the cost increases in housing and transportation. My commitment is to NOT watch employees lose their housing and become clients. It’s becoming tougher every day to prevent this. We offer employees an opportunity to take a loan against their paycheck. Which maybe sounds “nice,” and that means they have less take-home pay every month as they pay themselves back.

So, I have been reflecting and wondering, would our funding community consider increasing their contracts and grant awards to cover these increases? With the expectation of government, private and public philanthropy, that we in the social impact sector continue to provide quality services with strong outcomes, we need to retain our staff. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 11% over the last 12 months.

Does anyone have a job where you received an 11% increase in pay in the last year?

Our services are free. We aren’t a profit center. We don’t sell anything. And please don’t suggest that we start a social enterprise, or open a thrift store, or create a revenue-generating product/service. We provide value to the community that deserves fair compensation. At the Campus, we are providing a safety net of services to people with extremely low to no income. We operate with skilled employees, at least half of whom have lived experience, and they deserve to be paid sufficiently to cover living expenses and to provide for their own families. (And please don’t suggest we recruit more volunteers unless you have toured and spent time with us, and you can be specific as to which roles. You would not tell a hospital ER to recruit volunteers.)

The way we treat our clients and our employees is a reflection of our organization’s values. And we hope it reflects our funders’ values. What can we do together to recognize this gap and generate solutions?

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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