Silence is Critical

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Silence is Critical

How we spend our time being in our human experience. That’s powerful.

It’s been 11 days since my last post and 20 1/2 weeks since losing my sense of smell.

Arizona and Maricopa County are lifting the state of emergency related to COVID-19. There is no immediate change for us at the Human Services Campus, as we await updates to CDC guidance for congregate settings such as ours. Our “congregation” consists of the 700 people we can shelter nightly plus 1,070-ish unsheltered individuals.

Heat relief planning takes precedence as we know heat-related deaths are more likely for the unhoused and unsheltered than COVID or any other disease. Supplies are being ordered. Planning is underway to bring more people indoors, at some point regardless of what the CDC says. We can’t wait while people suffer. Even when we can bring more people inside at the Campus, there is not enough room for 1,000 additional people. Maricopa County and the City of Phoenix are looking at other locations. They can’t open soon enough.

My weekly writing was delayed this time after being consistent for a while. I took a half-day break last Friday to focus on fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). That effort with the Man & Woman of the Year Campaign creates daily reinforcement for me of the intersection between health conditions and costs and housing. I have known and said repeatedly things like, “housing is healthcare,” and chronic health conditions are common in the unhoused population. The last week or so this has struck me at another level, and it has me pondering my own mortality more than ever before. Not that I’m thinking about it so much that it’s debilitating. And telling more people about my Dad who passed at the age of 57 stirs up all sorts of emotions. Some of those tied to my own age of 52. I could get lost in wondering how I would spend the next five years if I knew it was my last.

And I think about friends who lost their battles with cancer. Friends I lost to COVID. As I do my LLS fundraising through Facebook and Linked In and scroll through the friends and contacts, I see the names of those who are no longer with us. So many. Fresh moments of grief every time. And rekindled memories of kindness and fun. Self-talk to focus on the good memories.

As I read the newest transient death report from Maricopa County Public Health and work with them on a regular basis to look for information on “transients” with no known next of kin, I think about how awful it would be to die alone. I don’t have kids and met my husband’s kids when they didn’t need any parenting help from me. I look at the list of names on the County report, and I think about the eyes I have looked into of people who are unhoused. And I ponder whether or not they have any “emergency contact” or “known next of kin.” It’s really difficult to forget the faces of humans I have made eye contact with, and as I get closer to my four year work anniversary, that gesture of looking at the people we serve and offering a greeting are the best parts of my day.

So basically my mind is a swirling morass of thoughts, fears, feelings, vulnerabilities, as well as hopes, desires, and visions. More so than usual as to the depth and thickness of this morass… and I know it’s temporary. There are lessons to be learned through it and paying attention to the emotions and my reactions are the path to learning. Making the space for meditation, exercise and self-care is necessary. Silence, time for silence is critical.

There’s an Alannis Morisette song, “All I Really Want,” which is fantastic all around, and there is a particular lyric that goes “Why are you so petrified of silence? Here can you handle this?” And then there is a three-second pause, of silence.

The song continues, “Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines? Or when you think you’re going to die?”

That three-second pause. The silence. Yea, that part. In meditation, it’s the gap, where there is no thought. There is just being.

The how we spend our time being in our human experience. That’s powerful. Providing every human the same access and opportunity for their life experience. More of that. Yes, please.

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

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