I don’t know where you can go.

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

I don’t know where you can go.

Everyone deserves a dignified response when they call for help

Sirens wail from a distance. They become louder, and then visible through the office window. The fire truck taking a sharp corner to turn right towards the Human Services Campus. A woman using a wheelchair only moments before completed crossing the street in the fading white lines of the crosswalk.

Voices on the street are almost constant. And when an outburst happens, a pause to listen, is it louder voices due to excitement, happiness, a phone conversation, or is it verbal fighting? The loudness continues, more voices join in the chorus of what seems to be an argument.

The verbal fighting gradually escalates to thrown punches.

The fire truck and ambulance leave the Campus through another gate, not visible through the office window.

The fighting is reported to security and via 9-1-1. Silent police vehicles arrive. The volume reduces. The fighting ceases.

A virtual meeting starts. The headphones muting the sounds from the street.

Today’s high temperature was 76. Tomorrow it’s forecasted to be 60.

Today no new positive COVID cases amongst the clients. Tomorrow, who can project? Positivity rates are decreasing for sure. And the unpredictability of this communicable disease keeps all of us on our toes. Following protocols. Testing and vaccinating.

The sun begins to set. Going over to-do lists and calendar items. Forwarding one more message with a request for shelter assistance. For a family of four. The shelters are full.

Yes, I challenge people to move faster, to work on long term solutions, to put ego aside and focus to the goal. I asked someone yesterday, “what have you done today?” I wasn’t joking.

The answer to a family of four with no home, seeking shelter shouldn’t be “I don’t know where you can go.”

My challenging and disrupting, drive to create urgency, is because everyone deserves an answer when they call for help. Whether that help is via 9-1-1, an email, a phone call to a social services organization, everyone deserves a dignified response.

Walking away for the evening, in the darkness, there is music on the Campus lawn. There is a woman dancing and singing lyrics that don’t match the music. A woman asks of a man, “hey is that green building open?” His reply, “they are all ready full for the night.”

Inside I’m silently grateful she didn’t ask me if there was a space for her. I would have to say, “no, and I don’t know where you can go.”

So, yes I will keep challenging and disrupting, and asking questions, and strive for urgency to solve the complex issues of the public health crisis we label “homelessness.”

“No, no, no, don’t pass me over. No, no, no, don’t pass me by.”

[There’s a band from Waukesha, Wisconsin, one of my all time favorite bands, the BoDeans. They had some national success back in the day; the theme song to “Party of Five.” They wrote a song called Good Things. The line above is from that song and standing alone it is in my head as I pass by those I cannot help in the moment. The song is really upbeat and continues with “see, I can see good things for you and I.”]

Love your peeps. Wash your hands. Share (except your germs). Listen first to seek to understand. Dream big and act. Be anti-racist. Turn up some music and dance. Save the Starfish and the Ocean. Be like Mike.

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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