We Carry On

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

We Carry On

COVID, Monsoons, Fiscal Year End, DOJ, and Sending Peace to those in Need

It has been 17 days since my last post. Life is busy and chaotic and “fine” at the Human Services Campus, serving single adults experiencing homelessness.

Positive cases amongst clients have increased. We are in full blown COVID mode. Circle the City continues testing and vaccines. The isolation hotel is fuller than it has been in months.

It is the time of year when we close a fiscal year, review data and analyze. We are prepping our annual report and planning for the December 17 Mike McQuaid I am Home Breakfast.

We opened a Cooling Center on a vacant parcel of land to give people a space for respite from the Phoenix heat. The City of Phoenix is providing the tables/chairs, porta lets, hand washing stations and shade structures. We have staff and security. After two days of operating, the monsoon took out two of the shade structures and a porta-let. Over the weekend vendors weren’t working. And then another storm came through blowing everything in the opposite direction, taking out another porta-let and knocking down temporary fencing.

When my phone alerts sounded in the middle of the night, one of them indicating 80 mph winds were likely, my first thought was “what about all the people outside…” I didn’t think about the materials – the shade structures and fencing. I thought about the people. All that stuff is clearly replaceable and the cooling area is reopened. The people – they are worn down. Heat, wind and rain, COVID. Beaten by things out of their control.

The Department of Justice announced an investigation on August 5th that may lead to helping some people. From the justice.gov web site:

“This investigation will assess all types of use of force by PhxPD officers, including deadly force. The investigation will also seek to determine whether PhxPD engages in retaliatory activity against people for conduct protected by the First Amendment; whether PhxPD engages in discriminatory policing; and whether PhxPD unlawfully seizes or disposes of the belongings of individuals experiencing homelessness. In addition, the investigation will assess the City and PhxPD’s systems and practices for responding to people with disabilities. The investigation will include a comprehensive review of PhxPD policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as PhxPD’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.”

This announcement has opened up a lot of conversation. I was honored to be on a panel to discuss the relevance of homelessness in this investigation with the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona. I hope this investigation won’t take years. And I hope it reveals the depth of intersectionality between bias, homelessness and disabilities. In the single adult population in Maricopa County who experience homelessness, a disproportionate number are people of color and people with disabilities, compared to the rates in the overall population. Identifying the source of policy that directs employees of the City in a variety of departments will be key to creating solutions.

All the while, my phone rings, voice messages are left, emails are received to the tune of 300+ since January 2021. I realize that I have desensitized myself to most of them in order to carry on. I have the ability to forward most of these on to other people to return the calls, write the response messages, and do their best to connect people to resources. The voices that crack on the voice mail though, when I can tell people are holding back their tears, they get to me. The long talk-to-text emails with no punctuation that convey at times a life story, they cause me to pause and send peace out to these “strangers.” The situations range from single adults, to families of seven, people with pets (lots of pets), people who have already lost their home, people who are living in motels until their money runs out, people who are employed and can no longer afford rent. People at the end of their ropes who are calling and internet searching to find resources.

So we carry on. Head down, focused on the work, doing the day to day, and pushing for systems change, taking the high road.

This was a messy post. And sometimes that is just how it all feels.

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.

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