HSC Director Shares Heartfelt Experience on Campus
From Amy Schwabenlender, HSC Executive Director:
On July 1st, I watched an EMT unsuccessfully provide CPR to a 57-year old woman. Her story is not mine to share. I don't know her whole story. I know data points from a case file. I know that she didn't choose to be "homeless," because a person does not choose to have mental illness, or choose to be preyed upon and victimized. I do know that the Arizona state legislature chose to proclaim pornography a public health crisis, rather than perhaps proclaim that Arizona has a housing crisis and that homelessness is a public health issue.
Last week on a tour at the Human Services Campus someone asked me "how can you do this every day?" as we walked among the hundreds of people seeking services. I choose to be here because I believe that everyone deserves safety, care - health care and mental health care, food and shelter, dental care, spiritual support, employment assistance, benefits assistance. I believe that everyone deserves an advocate. I am more convinced every day that those of us working in this space are doing our clients a disservice by labeling "individuals experiencing homelessness" solely by their housing status. It gives people the opportunity to say, "well some people choose to be homeless," as if we were able to give people a home, they would refuse it; and that the home is all people need. Maybe that is all some people need, a home. Maybe. And maybe many more need holistic services that address their total well-being. Hospitals don't define their patients by what they are lacking, good health; they aren't the 'health-less." Why do we define our clients by one thing they lack?
Today I watched someone who did not choose many things leave this earth. I won't think of her as the "woman experiencing homelessness," I will think of her by her first name.