Safe, Affordable, and Permanent

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Safe, Affordable, and Permanent

Can we write prescriptions for housing?

It’s been seven days since my last post and 41 weeks since losing my sense of smell, with no change on the olfactory front.

With a holiday day this week for many of us, it means cramming in the same number of meetings and amount of work into four days. And I’m not complaining. I was able to have a day to myself, while others had to work, or for the unhoused and unsheltered they spent the day like other days, however they had less access to services and resources. It’s a regular struggle for me personally…. knowing that people without homes don’t get a “day off” and have no “paid holidays.” There is no weekend, no calendared downtime. And those of us who work in this space tend to follow the operating hours of typical work environments, meaning mostly Monday through Friday work schedules and mostly 8/9 am to 5/6 pm.  When I first started working at the Human Services Campus, our Welcome Center, the front door to the Campus, operated on those standard Monday through Friday hours. I cringed when people had to be told, “come back tomorrow morning.” I hated leaving the Campus knowing that people would be lined up on the sidewalk overnight, just waiting for us to re-open in the morning.

After substantial planning, fund raising, and staffing, the hours of the Welcome Center gradually expanded. First extending hours to be open until 11 pm. And adding Saturdays and Sundays. And then adding a third shift and being open a full 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.  There are still challenges with staffing and sustainable funding. And this is a critical component of helping people when they most need help.

Falling into homelessness doesn’t happen on a pre-planned schedule. No one is looking forward to the unknown of where they are going to sleep at night. Questioning how much of their belongings they can carry with them. Some folks hold on to a vehicle, using it as their home. The inquiries to myself and the HSC team continue – through phone calls, voice messages, and emails, in addition to people who come in person. I hear disbelief in people’s voices; I read sentences that convey people will do nearly anything to be able to stay living where they are. The negotiating, the weighing of options, the continuing to live with people/persons that are abusive, all to avoid homelessness. Renters are being given three, four, seven days to vacate their apartments. Moving in this short of a timeframe is an “unplanned” move. Unplanned moves that include children are incredibly detrimental to their well-being, as it affects their school attendance, their regularity of nutritious meals, of stability and health.

Housing is healthcare. For avid readers of this blog, you have seen these words before. It remains true! Housing is healthcare.

There are examples in anti-poverty and anti-hunger work of medical professionals writing prescriptions for nutritious food. I can’t vouch for these stories. I know they are impactful when they are heard. I guess it’s easier to understand that human bodies need nutritious food to survive and thrive. Writing a prescription for unhealthy people to eat their veggies is logical. Incentivizing people with coupons, discounts, and access to food boxes works.

Who/how do we write prescriptions for safe, affordable, permanent housing? Is there a doctor in the house?

I may just need to leave it at that.

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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