It is a common mantra among organizations aiming to help solve the systemic homeless issues facing the greater-Phoenix area: Meet people where they are. This allows them to do the maximum amount of good for the people who need their services.
That’s where an organization like Mercy Care with its grant program Mercy C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Action, Resources, Education and Service) comes in. The community reinvestment program provides grants to nonprofit organizations throughout the Valley that are on the front lines fighting to get as much help to the people who need it.
For the March episode of It Happens at STN, an STN crew hit the streets with Mercy Care’s Mobile Care Unit to get a first-hand look at how collaboration can lead to real solutions.
Director of Community Relations – Mercy Care
Executive Director – Activate Food Arizona
Executive Director – Cloud Covered Streets
Community Engagement Manager – Sonoran Prevention Works
Mission of Mercy
Mercy Cares is our community giving initiative, which includes our Community Reinvestment Grant Program. We have been doing this since 2016. We are so proud to say that we’ve been able to invest nearly $15 million into our local community through nonprofit organizations.
Hitting the Streets
The Mobile Care Unit program is part of a collaboration with three organizations. The beautiful thing about these types of mobile units is we’re able to go out into the community and really meet the people where they need the services.
That’s what gets me so energized when we actually have the opportunity to, meet some of these people who have found their mission in life. And the fact that Mercy Cares can then find them and partner with them and be able to help provide the resources that they need, it gives me great pride to work for an organization like Mercy Care.
Activate Food Arizona is an Arizona nonprofit. We are most known for our Farm Express program, which is a fleet of mobile produce markets that provide high-quality, affordable fruits and vegetables in communities that don’t have easy access to fresh, healthy food or grocery stores or corner stores.
The bus itself is out four days a week. We select sites based kind of in geographical areas where we either know there’s a need or where we have a site that has asked us to come on board and really serve. For example, a senior living community.
We source a lot of local food from Sun Produce Cooperative, which is a co-op of about 40 small-scale farmers from around Arizona. We get seasonal food up in northern Arizona, central Arizona, and then Southern Arizona. Throughout the year, we have several items available. That really goes back to supporting our local farmers and our local food economy. We want our customers to be able to make the same choices that you or I have at a grocery store.
Good Food, Good Health
We all know that food and healthy eating are tied very closely to health. And the fact that Mercy Care recognizes that and has continued to recognize that year over year has made just a tremendous difference, not only for our organization but for our customers, as well.
We’re a 5013c nonprofit with a focus on helping those experiencing homelessness. From dealing with the homeless and talking to them and asking what a lot of issues were, we heard that showers were a big one. So, we bought a cargo trailer and converted it. Now, we have a mobile shower and laundry trailer.
Change and Hope
The people that show up to use our services are completely different than the people who leave. Physically, they get a haircut, a shower, [and] a brand-new wardrobe. So, they look different. But when they come out and visit us, they know that they’re gonna be surrounded by our team of people that just genuinely care about them.
The showers, the haircuts, the laundry services, all of that is secondary. That’s just to get them here. Then once they’re here, then our main mission really starts. We can really connect with them and help them feel better about themselves. And if they don’t have hope we wanna spark that and keep hope alive in them.
When we’re seeing 35 to 55 people a day, those costs add up pretty quickly. And it was all on my head to try and find the money. Luckily, Mercy Care stepped up and they’re like, “Hey, we don’t want you worrying about this. We’re gonna take care of you.”
The last two years, they’ve covered our operating costs. It’s taken so much stress off of me. I honestly, tell people all the time, “I cannot speak highly enough about Mercy Care.”
Sonoran Prevention Works is a leader in Arizona for harm-reduction services. Our mission is building a Healthy Arizona with people who use drugs. We have several robust programs that cover the state of Arizona through seven different counties.
Stopping the Spread
One of our programs is a robust HIV and Hep C testing program. We have some of the best syringe service programs in the state of Arizona. Over the last 10 years, we’ve actually advocated for new syringe service laws that had just recently passed in the last couple of years.
Mercy Care has been extremely supportive, giving us an opportunity to really think through and build our mobile care unit here in Maricopa County. I just want to extend a big thank you to Mercy Care for being extremely consistent and committed to our mission of building a healthy Arizona.