By Colleen Sparks
The Coronavirus pandemic is especially challenging for people who are homeless but luckily several organizations in the area provide shelter, food and other types of support.
House of Refuge Sunnyslope is talking to people every day who need assistance, said the non-profit organization’s CEO Julie Supplee. This faith-based non-profit offers long-term, traditional housing to men, women and children, and provides life skills, spiritual guidance, practical support and camaraderie. Those who had struggled with homelessness live in several different houses and apartment-style homes on 11 different properties near the non-profit’s headquarters on North 7th Place south of Cinnabar Avenue.
As of press time, House of Refuge Sunnyslope had openings for some men and for one single mother, Supplee said. The organization is doing extra sanitizing in its buildings and for now has stopped providing meals to large groups. Meals are hand-delivered to the individual homes. Bible studies and life skills classes have been moved to online-only.
Supplee said people are staying longer in the House of Refuge Sunnyslope homes than they typically were prior to the pandemic.
“At a time like this, you want to hunker down and stay where you’re at,” she said. “We have a lot of residents (that) have lost jobs…some layoffs, some hours cut.”
The Human Services Campus, a collaborative force of several organizations that team up on one campus to end homelessness, also is busy trying to put roofs over people’s heads.
One of the non-profits housed on the 13-acre campus at 204 S. 12th Ave. is Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS), which runs an emergency shelter that typically has 470 beds, said Amy Schwabenlender, executive director of the Human Services Campus. A day room has been opened up to allow for social distancing for those that are elderly and have chronic health problems, though none of them has tested positive for the Coronavirus.
“We turn away about 500 people a month because the shelter is full,” Schwabenlender said. “One of our goals is to find permanent housing for everybody that comes there. It seems to be getting harder and harder.”
Human Services Campus is seeking the Phoenix City Council’s support to add more shelter beds.
Circle the City, one of the organizations on the Human Services Campus, provides integrative healthcare to homeless people. Its medical respite program offers case management, psychiatric support and physical therapy. Circle the City is taking great precautions in order to try to protect patients and staff members from the COVID-19, including taking inventory of personal protective equipment and enhancing screening of patients per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
To learn more about the Human Services Campus, visit hsc-az.org.
UMOM New Day Centers, which offers shelter, services and housing for homeless families, single women and youths, recently opened its latest affordable housing complex, 19West at 2011 W. Morten Ave. The apartment complex has 64 units priced below market value and also houses an after-school program and food pantry for its residents, said Darlene Newsom, CEO of UMOM New Day Centers.
Single women without children can live in the Halle Women’s Center, which is across the street from UMOM’s shelter for families at 3333 E. Van Buren St. UMOM recently added 20 more shelter units to serve families as demand increased due to the pandemic. More than 170 families in Maricopa County are waiting to find safe, permanent homes as they are living on the streets, sleeping in cars or residing in unstable homes.
Newsom said many homeless families are living in parks and along a canal in Sunnyslope. UMOM’s main family shelter recently saw an increase of 30 percent on its waiting list. The organization also provides medical services through Circle the City and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, as well as a café for the public. The café is closed now due to COVID-19.
“We have a lot of individuals in our community who are living on the edge,” Newsom said, adding that many people have lost their jobs because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
She praised the Phoenix City Council for voting last month to provided funding to UMOM and other organizations, to help end homelessness.
If you need help with housing or other services, contact UMOM at 602-595-8700 or visit umom.org.