Rest in Peace

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Rest in Peace

This work is filled with experiences.

Ten days since my last post.

On the COVID front, positive cases continue to decline. Testing and vaccine clinics continue. Mask wearing indoors continues. Resiliency continues. Overnight sheltering in a day room and a dining room continues. Three times per week coordination calls with partners continue. We stand ready to carry on with all the precautions necessary to mitigate more COVID. And we have flu shots on the way!

On Monday, October 11th, HSC issued a land acknowledgement for the first time in recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day. In researching the land the Human Services Campus resides on, my interest in the history deepens, and my respect for the tribal ancestors grows. Our partner Native American Connections performed a blessing and cleansing on the lawn Monday. As I walked across the lawn, three clients stopped to ask me what was happening. When I said “cleansing,” one man said “oh, we need more of that.” I said I couldn’t agree more. The ceremony was educational and spiritual, lifting us up.

On Tuesday, October 12th, HSC development director and myself gave a remote presentation to a funding Board. We asked for support of capital projects as part of the Mike McQuaid Legacy Fund to renovate three buildings and improve exterior spaces. Our request was unanimously approved! We teared up, surprised by the full support. I can’t wait to share more details as the contract is executed. We have employee and client informed designs that will transform the Campus, making it a point of pride in the community.

On Thursday, October 14th, I joined Fr. Dan with Andre House at another burial of the “indigent” at White Tanks Cemetery. There were three casket burials and six cremains. The fighter jets didn’t start doing touch and go’s until the prayers ended. The caskets arrived in small passenger vans, two blue-grey felt-covered boxes; one chipboard box. An “F” in black marker written on the box for the foot end. The casket set on two poles on top of an empty cement box. After the prayer, the caskets lowered into the boxes with straps. Later, when we the “visitors” wouldn’t be around to watch, a cement cover would be set over the box, and a bulldozer would lower the casket into holes ready in the bare dirt. The cremains wait in black plastic boxes, a label on top with the name of the deceased. They sit in a line next to a ditch. There is no grass here. There are no plants. There are a few trees and a couple of benches. Fields with crops are adjacent on three sides making the air smell of pesticides. Even a slight wind stirs up the dirt. The cemetery is owned by the County.

Today, I met a County employee and asked if we could help bring some trees in. She said because they don’t know how they would be maintained, they have typically avoided planting anything. Why do I go there? I don’t really know. As Fr. Dan prayed, I repeated silently to myself “rest in peace, rest in peace, rest in peace….” I guess it saddens me deeply that nine people were put to rest without a family member, without a friend. Maybe my agnostic wishes will give some spiritual lift on their journey beyond earth. Maybe I am seeking some closure of my own. Whatever the reason, White Tanks Cemetery gives me humility. And it gnaws in the back of my mind as a place where we can do better.

This work of “ending homelessness” is filled with all shapes and forms of experiences. Life and death. Sickness and health. Regression and progression. Humanity.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to release the thoughts from my mind.

That’s all I know so far.

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.

View the 2020-2021 Annual Report

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