It’s just there.
It has been more than two weeks since my last post. The break from social media was not planned and was cherished. Personally my recovery from COVID is incrementally better each day with remaining mild congestion, dryness in my head, and loss of smell. My energy levels are improved. Fingers crossed I am nearing the end of this COVID chapter.
COVID response continues for our clients and employees. Minimal positive cases are emerging from the Human Services Campus. It’s surreal to think that we are approaching the two year mark of operating in “COVID mode” with PPE and reduced numbers of people indoors.
And we are in another Phoenix winter, where 50 degrees and no sunshine does feel cold. Yes, I know in my hometown the high temperature was 21 degrees today. It’s all relative. Tonight with a low of 38 degrees on Phoenix pavement, it will be cold. Colder than any human being should have to live outside and attempt to sleep in.
Our buildings are full. And I will worry tonight about the 555 people last counted as unsheltered in the immediate area of the Campus neighborhood.
As I lament again over the lack of urgency for solving homelessness, I’m feeling like a broken record. Yes, an old 33 vinyl record. The needle bouncing over the scratches because a younger brother didn’t appreciate handling records with care. The vinyl of “ending homelessness” has multiple tracks. And while some efforts are played, gain “air time” and lead to conversations and maybe even funding, energy shifts and the track is skipped. Sometimes the needle bouncing all the way back to the start of Track #1, where public education has to start over; people ask for research and return on investment. And we play these “best practice” songs one more time.
From my view, the record is stuck in part because of a swirling and conflicting set of interested parties and stakeholders. At the HSC we put the client first. Our goal is to help everyone to permanent housing, at their pace, to meet their needs, and to reduce returns to homelessness. Our employees and the employees at more than 15 other organizations are important to achieving this goal and are the greatest asset we have, therefore their voice is mission critical. As a 501c3, nonprofit organization, the Board of Directors has equal voice in oversight and strategic decision making. The Board helps to guide us to the higher level goal of disrupting the systems that lead to homelessness and changing those systems to achieve “functional zero” on homelessness. A future state where people who are unhoused, can access services, shelter and permanent housing quickly (like in less than 30 days) and don’t return to homelessness. Yes, that big of a goal.
Outward from that circle of clients and employees, the prioritization of interested parties and stakeholders is like switching a stereo from playing vinyl album to playing AM radio, then FM radio; sometimes going way back to switching to an 8-track tape. These groups include 31 neighborhood associations within one-mile of the Campus; it includes donors (financial and in-kind), investors, grantors, public and private funders; it includes government leaders and elected officials; it includes “contractors” with strict requirements, such as HUD, Maricopa County, City of Phoenix, and AZ Department of Economic Security; it includes bureaucratic processes overseen by commissions and city councils, Continuum of Care committees. Voting bodies decide zoning cases that determine where certain services, like shelter and supportive housing can exist. And on top of that there are activists and advocates, the media and public perception. Visually it would be like the album cover for the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (youngsters may need to google this), it’s colorful and crowded.
I love music (#musicislife). And I love my “job” (vocation, calling). And to be successful the HSC message, while not sugar-coated, will always take the high road and focus to the goals. We will never make progress if we shift and respond every time the song changes, or the music medium moves from radio to record. And to make systems change we have to disrupt the entire music delivery system, agreeing on one song book, if you will, that can play digitally or on cassette tape. It takes everyone, in all modes to rebuild systems that ensure safe, affordable, permanent housing for every human being.
I heard Deepak Chopra describing “faith” using music and a radio as an example. He said you can’t take apart a radio to find the music. And you can’t take apart your mind to find faith. It’s just there.
The solutions to solving homelessness are here. I have faith in our collective response. For 2022, myself and the HSC are committed to achieving a new soundtrack that won’t skip or scratch. Join us, because “we get by with a little help from my friends.”
“What would you do if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song.
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.”
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.