How did we get here?

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

How did we get here?

Really, how do we sum up the past two years?

“Don’t be gross. Don’t be selfish. Do practice good hygiene. Do think of others. My thoughts at the end of today, while still processing how to prepare, maintain, and help people thrive. ” – My Facebook post 3/11/2020

It’s been ten days since my last Reflections post and 16 weeks since I lost my sense of smell.

Thanks to the Facebook timeline and suggestion of memories to share, I now remember this date two years ago. It was two days after a partner meeting of the Communicable Disease Work Group. All Campus partners were invited, and the conference room was standing room only. Additional representatives from Circle the City and Maricopa County Public Health were on the speakerphone.

We knew so little. We had so many questions. And then on March 11, 2020, a pandemic was declared.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” I’m bringing in the song lyrics early tonight. The Talking Heads song was in my head last night for some reason and has been an on-and-off earworm all day.

And indeed, how did I get here? March 11, 2022. It’s been a two-year slog. Yesterday, I was invited to a panel in front of philanthropic consultants to talk about homelessness and trends. For the introductory question, we were asked to state our name, organization, years in our position, and one word to summarize the last two years. One word. One word for the Endless Now.

I really gave it some serious thought. I used an online dictionary and thesaurus. I looked at the list of words invented in German during the pandemic, while there are some good ones, such as Geisterveranstaltung (ghost event, an event with no in-person audience), none were really apropos.

So, I went with “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” And yea, that was my earworm for two days.

Really, how do we sum up the past two years? For all of us, highs and lows, loss, happiness, sadness, ALL the feelings. And now for those of us here, we are survivors.

The risk isn’t over. CDC guidelines are still to ensure for our vulnerable populations we mask up indoors and maintain distance between people. There is still regular testing, with no positive client cases for weeks now (fingers crossed this continues). There are regular vaccine clinics. Our three times per week COVID coordination calls are now reduced to once per week. And we are ready, man are we ready if we need to step it up again and increase the number of calls and increase our COVID response.

We may be fatigued. Some of us may be heavier physically. Some of us may have frayed around the edges. We are still standing. We are still fighting to address and end homelessness.

“Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down. Letting the days go by, water flowing underground. Into the blue again, after the money’s gone. Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

Still serving 800 to 1,000 people per day on the Campus. More than 900 unsheltered for several weeks in a row in our immediate neighborhood. Local point-in-time data released today for Maricopa County shows just over 5,000 unsheltered people. Unsheltered people. That number doesn’t include the sheltered. This is a 35% increase over 2020.

Behind every number is a human being. One evening this week I started to hold the door open for one gentleman in a wheelchair. I found myself standing at the door for several minutes as more people filed through behind him. Then I found myself walking with someone to the CASS entrance. As I held the door open, I again spent several minutes as others filed in. Some with bags. One with a dog. Several with walkers. As I looked each person in the eyes, they said “thank you.” Some of the men seemed to be surprised by me holding the door for them. Others said thank you multiple times, grateful for the assistance.

I could have stood there all night. Offering a small gesture of kindness and a masked smile. Making eye contact to let people know they are seen.

“You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. You may find yourself in another part of the world. You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”

Indeed. How did we get here?

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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