Mahalo Nui Loa

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Mahalo Nui Loa

Many thanks and love for 2024.

It’s been 32 days since my last post. In that time, the Human Services Campus, Inc. held the 19th Annual Mike McQuaid I am Home Breakfast and announced name/branding changes that will roll out in 2024. The numbers of unsheltered people in the neighborhood of the Campus are hovering around 100. The sheltered number on Campus in four spaces is exceeding 900 people nightly.

For the last eight days I’ve been out of the fray, celebrating and enjoying the holiday season with family out of town. The physical and mental distance from the Campus and homelessness creating a time for disconnection from the work. The time instead spent connecting with family, relaxing, enjoying, and recharging. We made a decision many months ago to plan a big, possibly once-in-a-lifetime Christmas vacation on Maui.

None of us knew when we made the plan that the historic and beautiful town of Lahaina would suffer the obliterating fire of August 2023. Having visited several times in the past, it is heartbreaking to see an entire seaside area in black remnants, trees charred, vehicles left in place burned, and white fences melted downwards over bricks. We stayed in a rental home on the north side of Lahaina, surrounded by opulent resorts with easy access to pristine sandy beaches. Driving the Lahaina bypass is jarring, temporary barricades around properties yet with the hilly area it’s possible to see over the barricades and fences at the ashen destruction. There is a stretch of road with large portraits of those who lost their lives posted, the humans affected and not seen in this physical devastation.

For me, knowing what homelessness can mean, I see the loss of home and wonder how people will recover. The local response is difficult to discern for us tourists. We have seen two “resource areas” with tents and temporary structures that seem to be offering basic necessities. Some people are camping on the beach near high-end resorts. There is a protest and petition at a sacred, indigenous site where apparently the government wants to dump “fire debris.” While shopping and doing tourist activities, the employees thank us for our business. One business owner said there are half the number of people visiting this holiday season compared to last year. We planned to spend money while we were here, and we spent more to leave what we can in gratuities and rounding up on purchases.

While the “work” I do has not been close this week, the emotion and compassion I have is here with me for the Hawaiians affected. For all the time I spend advocating and seeking urgent solutions, it’s gut-wrenching to not understand how to help. As our time on vacation comes to an end, I will return to Phoenix. And I will pick up on the opportunities and challenges that 2024 will bring, with a renewal of energy and focus and with a frequent look back over my shoulder at Maui to consider how to support their rebuilding from afar.

The environment, weather, and culture are different. And as human beings, it doesn’t matter if it’s an island or a desert, everyone deserves safe, permanent, affordable housing. With mahalo nui loa (many thanks) and aloha (love) for 2024.

Amy

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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