Fuel to Fire Our Endeavors

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Fuel to Fire Our Endeavors

Their faces light up with smiles.

It’s been 33 days since my last post. It’s the time of year when a minute outdoors feels like skin is scorching, car seats seem to be melting, and those who are unsheltered somehow survive. This week is forecast with an excessive Heat Warning, which indicates heat stroke can happen quickly… and heat stroke can be deadly. The invisibility of heat makes this level of threat less than obvious, and I assure you it is real.

Last week the HSC Outreach Team counted 911 unsheltered individuals in our neighborhood. I still hear some confusion from people over what has happened with street cleaning and the City’s efforts. There has not been a massive, all-out effort to relocate all of the unsheltered individuals. The effort is in a section or segment of a street or avenue. The number of people affected at one time is 30 to 50 people. Once that segment is cleared, signs are posted stating that no overnight camping is allowed. The cleared areas appear to be staying that way – meaning no humans are there with tents and temporary structures.

It will take many weeks and months before teams will completely clear the neighborhood. HSC and partners continue to support the City through shelter, housing, and supportive services resources. We all want enough indoor space to extend an invitation to every single person seeking assistance.

In the meantime, we are seeing an increase in fire trucks and ambulances responding to calls for assistance. This is both on and off Campus. While we have Circle the City on Campus with a healthcare clinic, it has limitations; it is not an Emergency Room. And while we have EMTs through Community Bridges, their team is also one to two people at a time. There is not enough capacity to serve the 1,800 people on and off Campus. And medical emergencies require a call to 9-1-1. The effects of heat and substance use are real.

HSC and partners are hyper sensitive to cooling and relief efforts. Beyond more shaded areas and indoor relief inside CASS and St. Vincent de Paul’s Dining Room, we distribute water constantly, approximately 100,000 bottles of water per month. Thirst Aid is in effect – our collective drive for donations of water and financial support to purchase water. (details at https://hsc-az.org/thirstaid/)

Beyond addressing heat, HSC is furiously recruiting and hiring additional staff to implement bridge housing and regional street outreach with the $10M contract from the State of Arizona. This week we are launching a bridge housing program in the east valley that will allow us to assist nearly 100 people at a time with temporary, indoor, non-congregate housing. (open positions are here: https://hsc-az.org/careers/)

HSC is working all angles, seeking ways to reduce inflow into homelessness, serve those experiencing homelessness, and increasing outflow into permanent housing, while identifying and influencing long term systems change to move out of “managing” homelessness to “ending” homelessness.

The Campus feels lighter without the COVID pandemic gloom. Personally one of the best things for me is to make eye contact with people and offer them a “hello” and “how are you today?” Watching the faces of people light up with smiles and the recognition they have been seen is the fuel to fire our endeavors.

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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