Offer Human Kindness

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Offer Human Kindness

The heat is excessive. Check on the people around you.

“I’m living in my car.”

“I have seizures.”

“I just found out I have Hep C.”

“I’m a senior, I need housing.”

“I can’t be in the sun, because I have seizures.”

“I work. I’m trying to get my life in a better place. I need a place to live.”

crying…. ” I was wonder if you could help me please. I have no money, no job.”…. crying

Sporadic reflections from the front lines serving people experiencing homelessness, receiving constant calls and emails seeking assistance, feeling blistering heat of Phoenix summer, and wishing for monsoon rain. It’s been 17 days since my last post. The Human Services Campus (HSC) Street Outreach Team counted 896 unsheltered individuals in the neighborhood around us this week, while 900 people spent the night indoors on beds and mats. The total of 1,800 people somehow surviving the stretch of record breaking heat.

Local media are calling it “the historic heat wave.” Today is Day 21 of temperatures over 110 degrees with low temperatures in the 90s, it is exhausting for everyone. It is especially harsh on those who have no indoor shelter, during the day and/or overnight. I watch the hot wind and billowing tarps wondering how people survive. My two minute walk to the car is intense, exposed skin feeling like it’s burning from the sun’s rays that have no clouds to fight their way through.

The frequency of fire trucks and ambulances to the neighborhood and on Campus is increasing. The wails of sirens no longer causing a reaction in anyone as it is commonplace. People continually asking, “Can I get a cold water?” “Do you have more ice packs?”

The quotes above are taken from voice messages I receive throughout the day. Only a fraction of sentiment captured. The voices of people in person and recorded are what haunts me.

Media attention is high this week. When I’m asked what is most concerning, my answer relates to the fact that the intensity of heat for this many days is life threatening. People don’t have an opportunity to cool down, not even overnight. Being unsheltered is not healthy. 

The media is particularly interested in the Brian Garcia Welcome Center on the Campus because it’s open 24 hours a day. We are included on the Heat Relief Map maintained by Maricopa Association of Governments. Only one other cooling center is open 24 hours a day. Some are open 10 to 12 hours per day. Many are open less than 10 hours daily.

I understand. Resources are only available certain hours. Employees and volunteers are not necessarily available overnight. And the unsheltered homeless population is homeless 24 hours per day. There is no “closing time,” no weekend break, and no cool down at night.

HSC made the decision two years ago to raise the funds and hire the staff to ensure the Welcome Center became a 24 hour facility. Our operations are not a heat-specific response, they are a homeless response.

It weighs on me that we do not have quick resolution for all of the people seeking assistance. It is annually frustrating that heat is not escalated as a public health crisis and that the federal government doesn’t recognize the impact of heat as a natural threat equal to other natural disasters.

The current excessive heat warning is in effect through Sunday at 8 pm. The forecast high for Monday is 109, and then 110/111 the rest of next week. The lows may drop to 85 to 87 degrees.

If you are local and want to help, visit the Heat Relief Network website to find the locations of services and donation sites. Consider volunteering or collecting items to donate.

Where ever you are, if you are reading this, check on people around you. The heat is also life threatening for people who are housed and may not be able to afford an electricity bill so they live indoors with high heat. Ask people you see outside if they need a cold bottle of water, and give them one. Offer human kindness.

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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