Still More Questions than Answers

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Still More Questions than Answers

Teach empathy and compassion.

It’s been eight days since my last post and 18 weeks since losing my sense of smell. As in-person events and meetings seem to be moving back into full swing, please know that I cannot tell if I have body odor or bad breath. I apologize in advance. And if you offer me a breath mint or body spray, I will happily accept it knowing that I must stink.

Indicators from County Public Health are that we may be able to reduce COVID restrictions in the very near future. As community-level transmission is now “low,” we can look at lessons learned from our COVID response at the Human Services Campus, so that we have an appropriate response when transmission increases and/or other communicable diseases, influenza come through our population in waves. This gives some anxiety relief as COVID fatigue is real. With no positive cases in our client population again this week, I am optimistic! Maybe I can start planning the post-pandemic dance party that was merely a dream so many months ago!

At the same time, temperatures are on the rise, with Phoenix “Spring” bringing highs in the 90s. The City of Phoenix is stepping up and working with us and lots of community partners on additional heat relief measures. With the unsheltered count in the Valley increasing 35% since 2020, and the unsheltered count in the immediate area of the HSC now over 1,000, we must find creative ways to bring people indoors for the summer. Heat is more deadly than COVID at this point.

The City of Phoenix also has been our ally in creating a “Sprung Structure” for emergency shelter and weather relief. With an investment of CARES Act funds, today we held an opening program in our brand new structure and unveiled the program name, “Respiro.” Although we don’t have full power and need to complete some final pieces of work, the final City inspection is imminent. Soon we will be able to shelter up to 100 people nightly, and as we add staff will be able to keep Respiro open all day. Respiro means “respite.” This facility is intended to be a place for rest, respite; a place to breathe. A place for people who have lived in toxic stress on the streets to be indoors. Since the first idea to open a Sprung Structure two years ago to today, this is an important milestone and something to celebrate. We thank the City, and we thank the Garcia Family Foundation that is providing one year of operational funding for the program.

And, with the unsheltered number over 1,000 in our neighborhood, it means we are only helping an additional 10% of people. There is so much more work to do. We can’t move fast enough as a homeless response system. The inflow of people needing assistance is overwhelming. The costs of housing are ridiculous, and the mechanisms to help people stay housed are not keeping up. Housing is healthcare. Lack of housing is a public health crisis.

While we work on these interventions and systems change conversations, we also confront the day-to-day needs. It feels like there is an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time. It feels like there is more angst and tension. It feels awful when we cannot help each and every person seeking assistance.

And it feels traumatic when staff and clients witness violence. Yesterday two clients had an altercation that turned violent. Many staff witnessed and worked to assist the victim who was transported to a hospital. That victim did not survive. The assailant was apprehended. Both in their early 20s. My mind can’t wrap itself around this level of violence. I know it happens. It pains me that people are pushed to the point of injuring and taking the life of another person. And now the survivor essentially will lose their own life to incarceration. I don’t know their “whys,” I’m left with the questions. I’m left with the desire to plead that people take care of each other, stop being mean to one another. Love your peeps. Teach them empathy and compassion. Please.

So this week ends similar to last week with me having more questions than answers. Feeling like we took two steps forward, and ten steps back.

“Has someone taken your faith?
It’s real, the pain you feel
The life, the love you’d die to heal
The hope that starts the broken hearts
Your trust, you must confess
… Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you.”
– Foo Fighters

Rest in peace Taylor Hawkins. Rest in peace our client of yesterday.

Hug your loved ones. Share (except your germs). Listen first to seek to understand. Be anti-racist. Dream big and act. Disrupt harmful systems. Turn up some music and dance. Be like Mike.

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

Planned Giving

Share This