Fight the Fight

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Fight the Fight

Still taking the high road with hope and optimism

Facebook reminded me of this memory today. One year ago we were facing a Planning Commission meeting. And tonight we held our third quarterly Community Outreach meeting, a requirement along with the outcome of our zoning case. A lot of this remains the same. Some has improved or changed. We still fight the fight to serve people with humanity. Still taking the high road with hope and optimism.

+++ November 2, 2020 +++

It has been more than a week since my last writing. On the front lines serving adults experiencing homelessness during a global pandemic, 90-degree days, and the loss of a champion, it is fatiguing. I write this without complaint, simply observation. The days are filled with Zoom / Microsoft Teams / WebEx, old school phone calls, and a lack of personal interaction with colleagues. Our team on Campus spends time together only in groups of less than ten people, for an hour or less. Our frontline staff continue to risk illness by serving up to 800 people per day.

Some nights my eyes are tired and cannot look at another screen for one more minute, which means my writing slows and the thoughts keep whirring in my head.

This week our zoning case is heard at the City of Phoenix Planning Commission (Thursday). This is hurdle number 2 in gaining approval to shelter more people. From a humanitarian perspective, this should be a no-brainer. We have buildings that can shelter more people. We have about 300 people who are unsheltered in our immediate neighborhood. And yes, of course there are impacts on the neighborhood. The impact would be less if people had a shelter bed at night; they wouldn’t have tents, tarps, and tatters on the sidewalks.

Our zoning case is unique as we are nonprofit organizations with nothing to trade in return for positive votes… homelessness has become a political football being passed from one person to another. Meanwhile people are dying. That is not an exaggeration or an attempt to pull on one’s heart strings. It is the truth. No one should die on the street, unsheltered, in a community, a country, with “enough.”

In these moments of pessimism though I wonder if we have “enough” humanity.

A man who stayed in our COVID-high-risk shelter a few months ago is back on the Human Services Campus. He has several barriers to strong physical and mental health. When I saw him last week he explained that he had tested positive for COVID. He stayed in a local isolation hotel. And then he tested positive again. He is confused by what this all means. He is receiving lots of assistance from multiple organizations. Today I saw him, however didn’t recognize him right away because all of his hair and facial hair was gone. I stopped to ask him how he was and commented on his hair cut. He was happy and proud. He said “just because I’m a bum doesn’t mean I have to look like a bum.”

I am glad he is doing better this week. And I am saddened that at some point human beings see themselves as “bums.” What happened to them? Where is our humanity? How did we get here?

Those are rhetorical questions. The questions that stem from my brief moments of despair.

The greater number of moments in my day are filled with optimism and hope. Because even through all of the dynamics working against efforts to end homelessness, we still make progress. We are still helping people move into permanent housing. We are still diverting people out of homelessness by reunifying them with friends and family. And we are still coordinating and adapting to reduce the effects of COVID. And some times, we may care and love the people we serve more than they care and love for themselves. Because they matter.

I choose optimism and love over fear and despair. I choose to pursue equal shelter and housing opportunity for all.

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.

View the 2020-2021 Annual Report

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