You Wouldn’t Demand Falafel at a Pizza Shop

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

You Wouldn’t Demand Falafel at a Pizza Shop

Organizations provide services that can be funded.

The heat of summer is slowly rolling in with daily high temperatures hitting 90 degrees. The nighttime lows are still in the 60s. We are in full-on Thirst Aid mode to collect bottled water and raise money for heat relief supplies. With 900 people sheltered at Key Campus every night and hundreds of other individuals accessing services on Campus during the day, the need is real. The least we can do is offer hydration and shade…. while the most we want to do is help everyone to find their permanent, affordable, accessible home.

One step at a time.

In the last blog, I addressed a current local and national message that looks to assign the source of all homelessness as substance use and/or mental illness, and that places blame on service providers for the increase in homelessness. As a reminder, local data does not support a conclusion that any singular factor or condition is THE primary cause of homelessness. And those of us serving people who are unhoused are not causing people to newly fall into homelessness.

I have been asked throughout this current legislative session questions about the types of services provided and challenged on why more services are not offered, with the underlying assumption that everyone needs substance use or mental health treatment.

At Key Campus, after asking each individual who arrives seeking assistance a list of intake and assessment questions, we provide an overview of the services available at Key Campus. Individuals list the following as reasons for their homelessness and barriers to housing stability: mental health disorder, chronic health conditions, physical disability, drug use disorder, developmental disability, alcohol use disorder, both drug use and alcohol use disorder, and HIV/AIDS.

Focusing solely on Key Campus, a dozen organizations provide services five to seven days per week. These include:

Brighter Way provides a dental clinic.

Circle the City provides a healthcare clinic and a medical respite program for people who are recovering from acute illnesses or injuries.

Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) provides shelter to 600+ men and women every night.

Community Bridges (CBI) provides behavioral health care, substance abuse and mental health services, PATH Outreach serving people with serious mental illness, EMTs, and more.

Homeless ID Project offers assistance with State identification and vital records.

St. Joseph the Worker assists with job search, job readiness, and employment support.

Chaplaincy for the Homeless extends spiritual support with Bible study and other groups, outreach and engagement.

Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) helps people apply for State benefits and issues SNAP EBT cards on site.

A New Leaf assists people by taking referrals for Rapid Rehousing, which is supported rental housing, and helping people move into homes. Then they provide the wrap around services.

ELAINE is a health and transportation navigation program, providing rides to off Campus services that connect to the Social Determinants of Health.

St. Vincent de Paul and Andre House ensure that our guests have access to three meals per day.

Keys to Change provides:
– a Post Office which gives people the ability to use our address to receive mail, to list on job applications, and to list on housing applications.
– housing referral, eviction prevention resources, and housing navigation.
– assistance with applying for Social Security and Social Security Disability Income.
– safe storage and shower programs.
– 95 beds of shelter in Respiro nightly.
– 280 mats on floors for overflow/ heat relief shelter every night.

Organizations that provide more episodic services include, however are not limited to: Arizona Pet Project, Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona, Maricopa County Superior Court Homeless Court, and Maricopa County Probation.

On top of that, Keys to Change leads the coordinated entry system for single adults and conducts housing match, housing navigation, and supports moves into Bridge Housing and permanent housing.

Yes, it’s a lot. No, it isn’t everything. There are initial pieces to address all of the reasons for homelessness. We do not have sufficient collective capacity to serve all people at all levels to meet all of the need. All organizations on Key Campus do work through networks of service providers to connect people with services and programs off Campus.

Another missing piece to capacity is sustainable funding. The Federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) extends funding through a plethora of avenues that provide a portion of revenue to operate emergency shelters, coordinated entry, rapid rehousing, street outreach, permanent housing, etc. HUD does not fund health care, dental care, behavioral and mental health care, substance use treatment. There are sources of funding for those services via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

So to answer the local question of how is HUD money being used for substance use and mental health services in homeless services programs? The answer is, it isn’t, because that is not what HUD funds.

HHS has a different array of funding applications with different required outcomes than those of HUD. HUD and HHS are not coordinated to provide funding to a braided system of care for people experiencing homelessness. This is an area of opportunity for advocacy at the Federal level. Creative ways to connect funding sources that would shorten the length of time that someone is homeless would be super-duper fantastic. Being able to meet more of the demand for service would be wonderful.

In the meantime, service organizations provide services that can be funded. There is a short video produced by the Human Services Council of New York that describes this well.

You wouldn’t demand falafel at a pizza shop… please don’t demand services that our organizations are not structured to provide.

About Keys to Change and Key Campus

Keys to Change (formerly HSC, Inc.) is the overarching organization that owns and manages Key Campus (formerly Human Services Campus) where 15 independent nonprofit organizations power a collaborative force united on one campus to end homelessness. Located just west of downtown Phoenix, Key Campus sees more than 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. Keys to Change is a compassionate connector and strategic partner in a leadership role working to end homelessness. For more information, visit

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