Legislation to House Unsheltered in Phoenix

by Andrew Acunin

Unemployment does not discriminate, as people of all races, ages, and backgrounds can find themselves out of a job. A considerable portion of the unemployed have been categorized as “disconnected youth,” those unemployed and without job prospects who are between 16-24 years old. Javier, a St. Joseph the Worker client, found himself unemployed after graduating from the Phoenix Job Corp with technical training. Without a stable job and family in the area, Javier ended up living at a half-way house but was eventually kicked out for taking an Uber home. As a result, Javier was homeless and unemployed for a time. Fortunately, Javier was able to get a shelter at CASS, which led him to St. Joseph the Worker.

Javier is now stable and has a job, and while his story should be celebrated, we must recognize that many clients aren’t as lucky. The Human Services campus does offer shelter for many of our clients. However, each month, roughly 500 people are turned away from the shelter because every bed in the Human Services campus is full.  Andre House, the Human Services Campus and Saint Vincent de Paul recently filed for a request to modify the permit from the City of Phoenix to increase the number of shelter beds in this area.

Javier at St. Joseph the Worker after finding employment.

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There will be a vote this year by the Phoenix City Council on whether the Human Services campus can receive a permit to increase shelter capacity. Andre House is leading the initiative in advocating for this permit and we at St. Joseph the Worker have joined the initiative. Our organization has come to realize that many potential clients are unsheltered. We appreciate Mayor Kate Gallego’s leadership in addressing homelessness both locally and regionally. This is a critical step for those individuals experiencing life on the streets as well as for the entire community. We stand behind Mayor Gallego in her forward-thinking approach to this important issue because, as she underscored in her recent remarks, creating positive change requires a collective commitment.

Before someone can look for a job, they need a secure place to stay and conduct their search from. Increasing the number of shelter beds could ultimately help many homeless individuals find jobs or enroll at St. Joseph the Worker. Maintaining good hygiene is also extremely difficult for clients living on the streets. Cleanliness is crucial to finding employment, and many clients are barred from a job due to a lack of clean living conditions. While St. Joseph the Worker does offer clients clean work clothes, we cannot ensure that clients have consistent access to bathrooms, laundry, and showers that are offered by the Human Services Campus and Andre House. Increasing the capacity of the Human Services campus would allow more of our clients access to hygiene services reserved for those in shelter.

St. Joseph the Worker’s objective is to help remove barriers by providing the resources necessary to gain and maintain employment. Considering this, we find it imperative to help our clients find a safe place to rest at night. A lack of good sleep is one of the greatest barriers to finding employment, as the job search process is very mentally and physically draining. We want our clients to be at their best when they search for jobs, go to interviews, and build resumes. It is important to us that as many of our clients have a shelter away from the noise and exposure of living on the streets. Also, the proximity of the CASS shelter to our organization could help clients with similar circumstances to Javier get access to resources that would give them a competitive edge when searching for a job.

 

A large group of unsheltered individuals set up tents outside the Human Resources Campus.

 

Here’s How You Could Help:

Andre House is leading the initiative to advocate for an increase in shelter beds for the Human Services Campus. If you are interested in helping, please contact Ash Uss at ashu@andrehouse.org or 516-429-6427 to find out more about what you can do. Here are also two important ways you can show your support:

  1. If you are a resident of the city of Phoenix, you can write a letter to your local city council member or the mayor showing your support for an increase in the number of shelter beds allowed at the Human Services Campus.
  2. You can also connect us with people of influence who can help our advocacy efforts be more efficient. If you would like to connect us with someone, please reach out either to Andre House or to St. Joseph the Worker using the contact information provided above.