We don’t need rescuers and saviors.
We don’t need rescuers and saviors.
We need courageous leaders.
It has been seven days since my last post and 15 weeks since I lost my sense of smell. I also recently notice my forehead is bigger, which means my hairline is receding. Aging, what a process. I’m fortunate to have another day, to wake up on the top side of the dirt.
For the thousands of people experiencing homelessness every single night in Maricopa County, they don’t have the same certainty of waking up. As the COVID positivity rate has plummeted (thank goodness), we are on the edges of our seats awaiting news that we can relieve some of the restrictions. Because even though it is “winter” on the calendar, Phoenix is fickle. This week the high temperatures are in the 80s. A short walk around the Campus today at 10 am was surprisingly warm. By this weekend the highs will dip into the 60s. We know “summer” is quickly on its way, outracing the official start date of June 21.
And we know, and County Public Health affirms, that summer heat is more deadly than COVID. We are in planning mode, looking at our spaces, counting our supplies. With the increased number of unsheltered people across the entire region, we see more than 900 individuals for two weeks in a row unsheltered in our immediate neighborhood. 900 + 600-ish sheltered, for a total of more than 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in one area of Phoenix. This is the highest number ever.
Another facility that we have been working on for some time is nearly ready to open. The big reveal and ribbon cutting will happen in the next few weeks. The COVID capacity plan was 100. Now we will look at ways to potentially increase the number of people inside, both for daytime respite and overnight shelter.
This cycle of planning for heat sadly continues. Our community never getting ahead of the curve. We could use COVID as an excuse for the last two years, however, Phoenix has been hot forever. We can’t kid ourselves and be surprised. Just like we can’t be surprised by the increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness.
I may be repeating myself, and my marketing experience reminds me that a person typically needs to hear a message seven times before they buy anything. I’m not asking you as a reader to buy anything… and you may need to hear these things more than once to remember them.
All forces and dynamics in Arizona, Maricopa County, and Phoenix have been working against all efforts to end and prevent homelessness. Population has consistently increased for decades. Rents have increased. Housing affordability has decreased. Housing production has not kept pace with demand (at all affordability levels). Income has not increased to match the increased cost of living. Subsidized housing programs through the Federal government have not increased to match the change in population.
Alas, I am not surprised by the increase in homelessness. All of the above was happening pre-COVID and the economic repercussions from the pandemic are exacerbating the situation.
With some policymaker conversations seemingly “blaming the victim,” it’s easy to put the onus on the people experiencing homelessness and on the service organizations that respond to the crisis of being unsheltered and unhoused. Allowing people with power, who make decisions, who set policy, to continue to blame the victim means they will not/ cannot/ do not blame themselves. This behavior deflects. And if they actually create something helpful, it also gives a sense of being a rescuer or a savior.
We don’t need rescuers and saviors to address homelessness and the housing crisis, we need courageous leaders who will listen to those with lived experience and people on the front lines. We need to implement evidence-based best practices and proven solutions. We need housing.
Now is the season in Arizona for State-level policy. Now is the time to pay attention to the committees and the votes. If you want to help, please follow Arizona Housing Coalition (azhousingcoalition.org) and Wildfire (wildfireaz.org).
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.