Installment #1 in the 2021 Reflections from the front lines serving adults experiencing homelessness, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Phoenix winter, and a quest to shelter more people.
With the close of 2020, I look back and see images of people - people served, people who ended their homelessness, people who lost their lives; I see employees who remained focused on doing whatever it takes to end homelessness. I hear daily phone calls about coordinating our Human Services Campus response to COVID. I feel the loss and the grief from people taken by this nasty virus. I also feel gratitude for having known them, for being inspired by them. I feel the love for my family, my husband, and my friends and colleagues. It was a year of unpredictability, of chaotic moments, of anxiety, of problem solving. It was a year of growth and learning, a year of resiliency. While it was a year of challenge, it was also a year of overcoming and surviving.
For 2021 I hope we move into a mode of thriving. We still operate in "COVID mode" following CDC guidelines, wearing PPE, requiring clients to wear masks, doing COVID screenings and regular testing. We maintain physical distancing and operate spaces with fewer people in them. I watch the people we serve and how they have adapted, dealing with COVID as yet one more challenge, one more barrier in their path to permanent housing.
Vaccines are on the horizon, with a possible inclusion of our clients and employees in Phase 1 b.... which could mean vaccines before Spring. That will mean new processes and policies, conversations about who will receive the vaccine first as their won't be enough for everyone. We still serve about 800 people per day and have about 200 employees working on the Campus.
Scarcity. A common theme, pandemic or not, in our arena of ending homelessness. Systems have prioritization because there is not enough. Not enough shelter, not enough housing, not enough capacity in systems of care. Prioritization means we decide who won't be served, who won't receive.
Yet there is enough resource. There is a lack of will to make changes to place the resources where they are needed most. There is judgment of "who is deserving." There is still power in places and with people who recycle inequities and maintain the status quo for their own comfort.
2021 needs to be a year of disruption to make systems change to break the cycles of homelessness and poverty. I will stand up to those who use bullying and gaslighting tactics to stall our efforts, particularly our effort to shelter more people. Typing in all CAPS, yelling, cursing, and repeating mistruths do not turn opinion into fact.
The fact remains that we do not have enough shelter for all seeking it. The fact is that shelter helps save lives and provide stability for people to focus on housing solutions. The fact is that shelter works. And there is "enough" to make shelter available at the Campus. Shelter, housing, healthcare, holistic services are possible for all, with the will of people to support these efforts. If you are reading this, thank you. If you want to be part of solutions, please email me at email@example.com.