Thanks to the Housing First model and other determined organizations that serve those in need, the homeless population in Phoenix has the opportunity to no longer live on the streets and has a fresh start living in a home.
It is no secret that homelessness exists here in the Valley, which is why the leaders of Phoenix, including Mayor Greg Stanton and members of the Phoenix City Council, are ready to do whatever it takes to bring homelessness to an end.
Downtown Phoenix is a specific location where many homeless people roam around, but homelessness also exists here in Ahwatukee, where there are starving people standing for several hours on street corners in hope that they will be given cash for food and water. The Housing First model gives a second chance to those who feel hopeless throughout the entire Phoenix area.
“Initiatives continue to utilize the Housing First model, targeting the highest priority populations including homeless veterans, chronically homeless families and individuals, and homeless youth,” Human Services Director Moises Gallegos said. Funding comes from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and United Way, which is an organization that strives to build a stronger community.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness believes that the Housing First model is fitting because it accommodates with the needy by helping them find a permanent home as soon as possible involving a standard lease agreement. Gallegos said it is more affordable to house someone than sending them to emergency rooms, EMTs and the fire departments. Living in a home will improve their health because it will enable them to have a more sanitary lifestyle.
Another strategy to transition homeless into homes is the Affordable Housing Loan Program in Phoenix, which was approved in December of 2013. Deputy City Manager Deanna Jonovich is currently focusing on improving this program for the upcoming years.
“The priorities are designed to be narrow, targeting supportive housing projects to serve the most vulnerable, frail, and homeless populations, and assist low-income families in home-buying” Jonovich said. She hopes these priorities continue to prosper with the help of the private non-profit Community Development Housing Organizations in order to make the transition process from streets to a home more practical.
Housing the homeless is key. It is more difficult for the homeless to get organized when it comes to filling out job applications and filing important paperwork when they are living on the streets. Shelters such as the Central Arizona Shelter Services, the Lodestar Day Resource Center and St. Vincent de Paul are also available for assistance.
“FEED. CLOTHE. HOUSE. HEAL” are the four goals this non-profit organization strives to do for many around the Valley, said Samantha Ansell, volunteer coordinator at The Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This society involves volunteers who serve through different departments including dining rooms, medical and dental clinics, and ministry to the homeless.
On Sept. 22 it was announced that California is also stepping up to the plate to help eliminate homelessness. This proclamation was made in Los Angeles, a city where there are sidewalks covered with tents, shopping carts and trash. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council have decided to put $100 million towards the devastating poverty that exists throughout the city said Dana Ford, writer and editor for CNN.
Arizona and California are only a microscopic portion of the world-wide homeless population. Housing First and the Affordable Housing Loan Program understand the importance of living in a home and are changing the lives for many. For all of the homeless people who believe they are going to remain homeless for the rest of their lives now have hope to live under a roof in a home where they can change their life for the better and influence more homeless people to do the same.
Gallegos strongly believes that resolving homelessness is a team effort.
“We must act together as a whole region to battle against homelessness,” he said. “It is very complex and our resources are limited so we must be coordinated and efficient in our approach and strategies.”
• Lori Fusak is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.