Working in the Duality

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

Working in the Duality

Asking those with something to give, to share with those who are without.

It’s been 15 days since my last post. Personally, still no new smells, 13 months and counting.

The unsheltered number near the Human Services Campus dipped to 792 as counted by our outreach team this morning. The last few weeks were over 800. The decrease may be due to the decreasing temperatures and to the availability of shelter in a new program that partners the City of Phoenix with Community Bridges. Thankfully, more of these types of programs are in the works. I see more people living in vehicles and others burning piles of trash to stay warm. It’s oddly reminiscent of scenes from movies about third-world countries…. not Phoenix, Arizona, United States of America.

Two weeks ago, we were finalizing the plans for the 18th Annual Mike McQuaid I am Home Breakfast. And whew, that happened. Last Wednesday, December 14, more than 600 people attended in person, and dozens viewed online as we offered gratitude and acknowledgment to partners, supporters and employees; and we shared stories of transformation. This was my fifth I Am Home Breakfast as an employee. Each one has been slightly different. In planning the last three without our founder Mike, we strive to keep his spirit and intentions alive. He wanted to thank everyone; if there was enough time he would have wanted to call out each of the 600+ people by name. He wanted people to understand the mission and the collaboration. He wanted to share the voice of lived experience, before the term “lived experience” was part of our system vocabulary. And, he wanted to raise money for the critical services provided by the HSC and its partners. Based on those intentions, the event was a smashing success. With a matching gift of $200,000, donations are still coming in. Today as I sat at a table in my office, there was music streaming from a tent outdoors. The sun was setting, and the office grew increasingly darker. I recognized many of the names of donors, and each brought a smile to my face. The names I didn’t recognize made me wonder, who is this person, and why did they decide to donate?

There are many interesting pieces of working at a 501c3, nonprofit, social impact organization. The fundraising aspect is a major one. HSC doesn’t charge clients for any services, and we don’t provide any services that are reimbursable through health plans, state Medicaid, or Federal healthcare contracts. We are guaranteed little to no multi-year funding. And while we know many of our donors and charitable organizations, there are other donors that are virtual strangers. And the events, well events take a lot of planning and staff time, as well as Board member and volunteer time. And for me holding the event at the Arizona Biltmore Resort is always surreal. Arriving at and leaving from a luxurious oasis in Phoenix, with Frank Lloyd Wright design surrounding you at every step, is the most opposite atmosphere from serving adults experiencing homelessness a mere ten miles away. The event challenges that are inevitable are put into perspective by the time I drive into the neighborhood of 1,700-1,800 unhoused folks.

Last Friday, HSC and partner staff planned and organized a holiday party for clients. Not at the Arizona Biltmore…. on the Campus Lawn. Thanks to an anonymous gift lunch was provided by Saucy Luke’s BBQ from their food truck. Outdoor areas were created for painting, photo booth, clothing, and haircuts; and a stage and staff DJ played music, and people danced. People danced…. in the sun and without a care in the world. Some 900 plates of food were served. There were smiles and joy. No Frank Lloyd Wright designs, no luxury. Unfiltered and unscripted joy.

Such is the life of someone working in this space. Working in the duality. Asking those with something to give to share with those who are without.

And there is additional hope on the horizon. Today the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness released “All In: the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” After a quick skim of the 104 pages, I am optimistic. The inclusion of Prevention, the centering on people with lived experience and addressing systemic racism, and the audacious agreement with HSC that homelessness is solvable! I look forward to reading the whole document soon (

Also released today, HUD’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Report. While not so full of hope, it is full of data. And underscores what we have seen to be true, homelessness and unsheltered homelessness is on the rise in Arizona. I will also soon be reading the entire 95 pages, and you can too at:

As 2022 comes to a close, there is much to celebrate, a lot to read and digest, and more to reflect upon to find the learnings for the future.

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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