It’s America. We have the resources.

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

It’s America. We have the resources.

We can keep working on solutions to prevent and end homelessness.

It’s been 8 days since my last post and 40 weeks since losing my sense of smell.  No new smells noted; fake smells and wafts of scents that disappear when I breathe deeply and try to smell them. I was so close to smelling coffee, and poof it was gone.

This strange effect on my sense of smell is something I am growing used to. One day if I smell pleasant things, I will be so pleasantly surprised. And it makes me wonder if this process is at all similar to what people go through when they are without housing, without shelter. I observe the living on pavement, in dirt, tarps, and tents that tatter in the breeze. Is it really something people “get used to”? The excessive heat watch this week was oppressive for my one hour standing outside at a time; I watch the hundreds of people who live outdoors and wonder how they don’t all die.

And I realize four years into this role at the Human Services Campus, I am also getting more used to the ups and downs, the roller coaster that is accomplishment and devastation at the same time. It’s a constant. And I suppose if one didn’t get used to it, they wouldn’t last long working in this type of environment.

This week we had a Project Connect event adjacent to the Campus to engage with those who don’t connect with our services or don’t connect often. About 250 people took the opportunity to meet with a dozen or so service providers. I watched one woman in pure awe that she would be able to receive assistance with a duplicate ID, right there, on the spot. Music played. The sun bore down. Our Councilwoman visited and sweated right alongside staff and clients.

Today the HSC Outreach Team counted 862 individuals as unsheltered in our neighborhood. After a decrease several weeks ago, the number is now on the rise again. As a community, according to Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) data, in June, 1,281 households were new to homelessness, and 503 people moved into housing. That’s something like two steps forward, and three steps back?

Today we also restarted McQuaid Mission with STN TV as part of the “It Happens at STN” show. Four programs were filmed this afternoon across a range of topics. With a 10-episode season planned, this will be a game changer in collaborative conversations in the Valley. Be sure to visit them online at stntv.com

The literal studio brightness with music pumping before the show was surreal compared to the scene on Madison this morning. My breath is still paused deep inside of me waiting to see if a man who is living unsheltered returns from the hospital tomorrow. Talking about housing solutions and discussing accomplishments like the Respiro Sprung Structure are necessary. And I am more used to living with this duality, the outward sense of problem solving and acknowledging what works, while inwardly feeling the sadness that comes with not being able to assist everyone today.

And then at some point, while looking at my calendar it really hit me that it is now September. I hear “Wake me up when September ends” in my head. I shake it off until now, tonight, sitting with it. Feeling the feels of grief from 2006. My Dad died on September 10, 2006, due to cancer. The weeks after were the most gut-wrenching of my life. I am today years old when I look up the song to read more about it and see that Billie Joe Armstrong wrote it for his Dad who died September 1, 1982, due to esophageal cancer. Now it has even more meaning for me. I won’t count down the days until October… and each day as I look at the calendar I will sing a bit of the song. And I may or may not tear up.

And I will pull myself together and carry on because I am not homeless. And I can keep working on solutions to prevent and end homelessness.

It’s America. We have the resources.

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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