Having too Much Stuff

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Having too Much Stuff

The Reality of Homelessness from the Front Lines

Here it is another July, wishing for monsoon weather that includes rain and not just dust storms. At the Human Services Campus we continue to follow COVID protocols, testing and vaccinating. Face covering and hand sanitizing. We adapt, we shift, we persevere.

For the first time ever, on a personal note, I am cheering for both teams in the NBA Finals! My hometown team of Milwaukee playing my now “home” team of Phoenix. Growing up I loved watching the Bucks; Marques Johnson was my favorite player (I had a poster of him in my bedroom). Tonight was the least anxious I’ve been watching a game because I support both teams. It’s good basketball, so I hope it goes seven games.

What is a little more anxiety producing, pursuing shelter. After a year and a half pursuit to purchase a pre-fabricated building to use for sheltering additional people through COVID and weather, the Phoenix City Council approved funding for one last week. My excitement is tempered by the negotiating of how this purchase will work and knowing that due to the ordering process and time it takes to erect one of these membrane structures it will be too late for this Summer. I am grateful that we will have this option soon. Forgive me though if I’m not doing cart wheels. Our network of advocates have been vocal for years that our homeless crisis response system is not sufficient. We inform and educate that homelessness is a public health crisis. People have died by the hundreds. And the wheels of bureaucracy continue to roll at their own pace.

My word for 2021 is “disrupt.” Writing these reflections post started as a way for me to empty my brain, to selfishly download the thoughts that could potentially keep me awake all night. Now these reflections also provide me an outlet to share thoughts, ideas, facts that may stir things up. I’m okay with that.

An unrelated observation of late is that it seems whenever I notice new construction, particularly along the freeways, it seems to be another storage facility. Do we all really have that much crap? I know there are valid reasons to use a storage space. And I know population is on the rise in our County. And do we really need more storage cubes? What is twisted for me is that every day I see people with so very little, carrying it, pulling it in a wagon, pushing it in a cart, lugging it on their back… carrying all of their remaining worldly possessions on them. And then at times when they want to enter a services space or shelter, we tell them it’s too much. You can’t bring all of that with you.

So the “housed” have so much stuff they need to rent spaces not at their homes to store their stuff. And the “unhoused” who have so little are told it is too much if we are going to shelter you and help you to find a home. (And yes, some “unhoused” people do use precious resources to rent spaces to store their stuff. And yes some of them can’t afford to keep paying for it and never see their stuff again.)

Stuff. Now it’s one of those words where I said it so many times it sounds ridiculous.

Stuff. Things we can’t take with us when we forever go from this human form. And it is so darn important to us while we are here.

And for those who are no longer with us, for those on this month’s transient death list from County Public Health, I apologize that we couldn’t help you faster. And for goodness sake, if we didn’t help you because of the amount of your stuff, I promise we will change that and be better.

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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