Volume 45 | November 9th, 2020
Reflections from Amy Schwabenlender, Executive Director
Here we are at the beginning of November, eight months since our first Campus conversations about how to respond to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, since my October reflections, the number of positive client cases has risen, just as in the general population. Reminding of mask wearing, hand washing, and temperature checking is the norm.

Another norm is continuing to fight to shelter more people. We cleared a significant hurdle with a recommendation by the Central City Village Planning Committee in October. Last week we reluctantly received a continuance for a vote at the City Planning Commission, putting our item on the December agenda. For some history:

  • Years of effort and conversation are behind this request to shelter more people safely in buildings. For nearly ten years, an overflow program operated for 250 men in a warehouse building and 250 people in a parking lot; neither space was safe nor meant for human habitation and they closed in 2015. For the next several years the overflow operated in a dining room and a day room. After funding support for those spaces ended in 2018, people returned to the streets.
  • When those 500 people slept in a warehouse and a parking lot, there were not another 200 to 500 people unsheltered around the Campus. Now there are that many people unsheltered around our services, services that they can access during the day. And then they have nowhere to go at night. Shelters across Maricopa County are full.
  • In January 2019 the official process began to request the City of Phoenix to amend the special permit in order to increase the number of shelter beds. The property is in an industrial-zoned area and within the Capitol Mall Overlay. That Overlay requires a special permit for things like temporary shelter and charitable dining services. The Campus has a special permit for these services, however the maximum number of beds allowed is 425.
  • With an increasing unsheltered population, increasing rents, lack of affordable housing, increased population in Phoenix and Maricopa County, and increasing evictions, it is a moral imperative to find ways to shelter people when they have no housing.
  • Campus partners CASS and Andre House have buildings that could shelter another 330 people nightly. And we have space in a dining room and day room to shelter another 200 people nightly during extreme weather. That is what we are asking to do.
  • Recently I talked with a woman, let's call her Ms. Y, with chronic health issues who was suffering on a 100-degree October day. She sought medical care, however it was determined by professionals that she did not need to go to the ER. Yet Ms. Y was clearly in physical distress. She stays in the Safe Outdoor Space, a place for people to pitch their tents and access toilets, hand washing stations, and potable water. After connecting her with a caring healthcare professional, the woman did not want to go to a clinic or urgent care. What did she ask? Ms. Y asked, "Where can I go sleep tonight where there is air conditioning? Fortunately, this professional called CASS and gave Ms. Y a ride to stay inside tonight, a night when there was a bed that happened to be available at 4 pm.
  • There are hundreds and thousands of individuals who are doing their best to get a safe, sound sleep tonight while they are unsheltered. Most times when asked, "Where can I go to sleep tonight where there is air conditioning?" my answer would be, "I don't know."
  • We all want to be able to provide an answer when people ask “where can I sleep tonight?” An answer that includes a shelter location.

COVID-19 is far from over. It will take years to build enough affordable housing for everyone that seeks it. If you would like to support our efforts to shelter more people, please “Get Involved” via fromstreettohome..org. While we work on short-term solutions, we will continue to pursue long-term solutions with Valley-wide public and private partners. Because we believe every person deserves access to shelter and safe, permanent, affordable housing.

Stay safe and healthy!
Homelessness is not a choice. The reasons men and women experience homelessness are as diverse as they are. To address the challenge, the Human Services Campus and our collaborating partners are seeking Phoenix City Council approval to add more shelter beds.
We are not expanding the Campus. We need permission to use our existing space for those men and women already at and near the Campus, so that more people can sleep inside. Our next important milestone is at the December 3rd City of Phoenix Planning Commission meeting. Please follow us or ‘get involved’ on the web site for updates.

Human Services Campus | 204 S. 12th Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85007 | 602.282.0853 | www.hsc-az.org