Travel Log: Phoenix Day 2

Sister Bernadine Karge, OP
October 11, 2018

A beautiful Phoenix day dawned with cool temps and blue sky.

We headed to the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix, AZ, where we were welcomed by Rick Mitchell, the Executive Director of the Homeless ID Project. This campus is an amazing project of cooperation and collaboration between private and state agencies working together to serve those experiencing homelessness in the area. The goal of this client-centric program is to end homelessness.

Over the past decades, 13 agencies that provided individual services to persons experiencing homelessness in overtaxed rundown warehouses in a neighborhood called “the zone,” have created a mall-like campus to deliver comprehensive services to thousands of persons in Phoenix each year.

With a central admission center where they offer coordinated services, including obtaining identification documents and a campus ID for services, individuals can begin their new start in life.

Among the collaborative services available are: assistance reunifying with family members and providing shelter until permanent housing can be obtained. The St. Joseph the Worker program assists individuals with computer access to apply for jobs online.  The program director stated that  today there are 38,000 jobs available in the county: 50% of them would be jobs that their program participants could fill. The quote on the wall of St. Joseph the Worker expresses the mission well:

No one can go back and make a brand new start.  Anyone can start from now and make a brand new beginning.

The array of medical services was most impressive including a walk-in clinic, a 24 hour clinic, and an array of dental services with new equipment. The latter provides a rotation for dental students to learn the latest techniques and equipment.

The State of Arizona has offices on the Campus which enables persons to apply for state benefits and  services. The vision of the founders of the Human Services Campus was to have a mall-type setting with services available within a manageable distance for those seeking them. In October 2017, Maricopa County transferred ownership of the Campus to the Human Services, Inc.

All of us Nuns on the Bus were truly enthusiastic about this model of service delivery with its blend of public and private funding to serve the common good.  It made me think of the Four H club: health, housing, humanity and HOPE.

The usual Nuns on the Bus rally followed our visit.  A few dozen folks joined us and Amy Schabenlender, Executive Director of the Human Services Campus, welcomed us and thanked us for visiting. This model of service delivery was praised by Sister Simone as a magnificent example of collaboration and the use of reasonable revenue for responsible programs.  Sister Julie Fertsch, SSJ, expressed our gratitude for the opportunity to see how each segment of the operation did their part extremely well. She shared Bishop Ken Untener’s reflection on St. Oscar Romero: ”We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well.”

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