World Gone Crazy

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

World Gone Crazy

We lack leadership at all levels of government to make eliminating homelessness a reality.

It’s been five days since my last post and almost 28 weeks since losing my sense of smell. Bleach, some citrus-y, some ammonia scents are present. Nothing I love, like coffee and chocolate. I dare to dream that those scents will return. In the meantime, I carry on.

There have been several client cases of COVID-19; fortunately no big spikes. We are awaiting changes to CDC guidelines for congregate settings with “vulnerable” populations, such as those we serve at the Human Services Campus. The Outreach team counted 883 unsheltered individuals this morning. This is down from 1,000 just a few weeks ago. A combination of heat driving people away, additional shelter spaces opening, and other unknown factors is reducing the number. We hold our breath to see how the numbers will continue to change.

About this time in 2020, mid-May there were “only” 400 to 500 individuals around the Campus. The County reached out to ask us to operate a Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) on their property just a few blocks away. We signed up for the task in order to create a CDC-guidelined area for people to have 12′ x 12′ squares to set up a tent, structure, etc. with 24/7 security, potable water, handwashing stations, and porta potties. More than 200 people could be there at a time. As people moved to this SOS, the City started to install posts and chains in the cleared easements. Eventually street after street became cordoned off with unwritten rules that no one could camp in those areas.

The SOS operated for just over a year. The County wanted to avoid another summer of the outdoor area, and we worked together to provide as many people as possible with a Safe Indoor Space. That was effective for the majority of people; some people simply left the area.

Unsheltered and unhoused individuals left the chained off areas alone. There was still space left unchained and unposted.

Until the volume of people grew to 700, then 800, then 900, then 1,000 and more.

Now those costly posts and chains are the foundation for structures that the unhoused have built. It reminds me of building indoor forts as a child. Taking all the blankets, pillows, and whatever was around to lean on a couch; or tie to a chair. Except these are adults, many who are experiencing homelessness for the first time. They are using any resource they can find or acquire to attach to the posts and chains. To create a private, enclosed space. To keep their pets and possessions relatively safe. To have a place to sleep. A place that will likely withstand the monsoons better than if there were no posts and chains (these things are cemented into the ground).

The posts and chains that raised the ire of myself and many others two years ago, over the waste of money and the perceived criminalization of homelessness, are now appreciated. Today that investment doesn’t seem so wasteful. Ridiculous, yes. As we are OK as a community and society to allow our fellow neighbors to live in places not meant for human habitation. To live in the dirt of a public easement. And yet, I feel like I should somehow be thankful to the City for this installation of foundational tools that are creatively being used to create a sheltered area.

When I wrote about the posts and chains in a post, back on June 10, 2020, I referred to the Tears for Fears song, “Woman in Chains.” “It’s a world gone crazy. Keeps Woman in Chains.” Those lyrics still apply today.

It’s a world gone crazy. We have the resources to ensure safe, affordable, permanent housing for every human being in the U.S.A. We lack the leadership at all levels of government to redirect and prioritize policy and resources to make it a reality. It’s a world gone crazy keeps woman in chains.

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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