Each day I have so much that I could say. And each day takes a new twist. Recent reflections from the front lines serving individuals experiencing homelessness:
1. The City of Phoenix did a kind thing by opening the South Hall of the Convention Center and providing transportation to individuals experiencing homelessness on days with extreme heat warnings. This is for day relief, 10 am to 7 pm. I did ask if they would allow people to sleep there as well, and the answer is "no."
2. While people sleep outside and Human Services Campus security are outside, and police respond to protesters with pepper spray and pepper balls just two to five blocks away, the air carries those chemicals which causes sickness to people who have nothing and people paid to provide security. There is little security when unhoused and when the recipient of second-hand pepper spray.
3. Governor Ducey issued a Curfew Order that prevents people from doing certain things in public spaces between 8 pm and 5 am. "Persons are prohibited from using, standing, sitting, traveling or being present on any public street or in any public place...." with some exceptions. I don't see an exception for lacking housing/ experiencing homelessness/ being unhoused..
4. There are not enough shelter beds in Maricopa County for everyone experiencing homelessness. It is unlawful to sleep on private property without permission, that would be trespassing. Now it is unlawful to be on public space overnight. For those who pray, please pray that people who have nowhere to sleep are not arrested and fined.
5. My concern and worry grows. "Being homeless" is not a crime. Heat kills. Coronavirus kills.
6. Of the 6,500 individuals that accessed services at our Campus last year, 31% identified as Black/African American, and 69% of those individuals identified as male. This is extremely disproportionate to the general population of Maricopa County with less than 10% of people identifying as Black/African American.
7. Systemic racism is real and creates barriers to housing for Black/African American individuals and families. For my social service partners, our policies and processes, employees, and Board may compound these barriers with bias.
8. No one chooses to be "homeless." No one chooses the color of their skin; no one chooses their parents; no one chooses to have mental illness. No one chooses to be bullied, harassed, abused, victimized or trafficked.
9. People of course do make choices. Anyone reading this has made at least one bad or poor choice in their life time. Most of us can recover; those of us who are white are often cut slack, allowed to walk, not judged, granted permission to carry on, forgiven.
10. I choose to support every human being and work to provide them access to safe, affordable, permanent housing. It's not only my "job," it's my vocation, my calling, my purpose/ dharma. And within that I commited to removing racial inequity and bias in the things I can control and to advocating for that same change systemically. I see the 31%, and I need to do more listening to them.
Stay safe. Wash your hands. Share (except your germs). Love your peeps. Have a real conversation with someone that looks different than you.