Hi, welcome in to the STN studios in downtown Phoenix, I’m Chris Coraggio. We are all set for episode three of the McQuaid Mission. We have two live guests in studio to talk about their associations with the Human Services Campus, we have somebody from CASS, Central Arizona Shelter Services, and CBI, Community Bridges. And also here to talk about what recently took place in a Phoenix City Council hearing regarding the ask for additional beds. We’re also going to take you on a full tour of HSC and at the end of the show, do some busting of myths when it comes to the homeless population. So, episode three begins right now.
Okay, so a lot in store here in this episode three, and of course it all involves striving for what Mike McQuaid always said is indeed a solvable problem; ending homelessness. All right, as always my cohost Amy Schwabenlender, she’s the executive director of the Human Services Campus. She’s going to be busy today talking with Lisa Glow, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, CASS, and also John Hogeboom, CEO of Community Bridges. But before we dive into everything, here are just a couple of simple statistics about the Human Services Campus, which is located in downtown Phoenix.
It opened back in 2005, it’s got 16 partner organizations on the campus, which covers about 13 acres, and they help 800 to 1000 folks each and every day. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume most of you probably have never been down to the Human Services Campus, so we thought this next piece of video would be very important for you to watch. The campus has grown a lot in recent years and so much is offered there everyday to anybody who needs the help. I remember when Big Mo gave me my own personal tour and I was blown away. So here’s your personal tour.
The Brian Garcia Welcome Center is where the journey from street to home begins. It is a single point of entry to the campus and connection to services. At the welcome center, HSC staff assesses each client to identify barriers to services and to develop an individualized plan to move to permanent housing. This is also where nearly 10% of individuals are assisted with reunification to family and friends, avoiding further entry into the homeless services system.
It’s nearly impossible to exit homelessness without personal identification. The homeless ID project provides these critical tools with identification documents, from birth certificates to driver’s licenses. With the campus status, as a post office, clients can use any HSE address as a mailing to receive mail, social security checks and other correspondence. We also address client’s immediate medical needs, physical health and mental health through our partners, Circle the City and Community Bridges Circle.
Circle The City’s health clinic serves between 40 and 50 individuals a day for primary health care, and up to 50 people in medical respite for post-surgery recovery or other health conditions. 70% of those people go on to permanent supportive housing, and ELAINE delivers health navigation and transportation to medical appointments for people experiencing homelessness. Community Bridges, offer substance abuse and mental health services, as well as crisis medical services, and they provide EMTs on the campus all day, every day.
Dental health, or the lack of it is widespread among individuals experiencing homelessness. The Brighter Way Dental Center has experienced caring professionals that use state of the art equipment, provide a full range of dental services to more than 10,000 patients a year, from regular cleanings and x-rays, to oral surgery, implants and dentures.
Among the most critical first steps to go from street to home, if not the most important step, is the shelter. Central Arizona Shelter Services or CASS, is the largest emergency shelter in Maricopa County. A low barrier shelter with 470 beds, 350 for men, and 120 for women. CASS provides housing services and case management, including specialized case management for youth, veterans, seniors, and the most chronically homeless.
Everyone on the campus can access three meals a day. St. Vincent de Paul serves 13 meals a week to an average of 500 people per meal. An urban farm on the campus grows farm-to-table nutrient-rich food for meals in the dining room, as well as healing and learning opportunities for both guests and the community. Dinners are offered at the nearby Andre House.
When it comes to ending homelessness, having a job brings both financial stability and emotional wellbeing. HSE partner St. Joseph The Worker, assists with job readiness, and everything from resumes, to mock interviews, to job searches, as well as transportation, financial assistance and clothing. Each year, St. Joseph The Worker helps between 3000 and 4,000 men and women find work. The range of resources and services doesn’t end there.
Other campus partners include A New Leaf, which provides rapid rehousing, which is short-term rental assistance and housing case management. The Maricopa County homeless court, where an onsite judge reviews cases to waive past fines or expunge misdemeanors from records for clients who have completed often hundreds of hours of community service. Maricopa County Adult Probation helps probationers remain in compliance and helps them move forward with their reintegration back into the community. Community Legal Services provides a weekly legal clinic every Wednesday at the Human Services Campus. They cover cases related to housing law, employment law, tax, health and economic stability, and consumer law.
Catholic Charities operates the Veterans Outreach Center, which offers veterans outreach and connection to services, including the Mana House for formerly homeless veterans. The chaplaincy for the homeless also provides services on the campus through spiritual support, offering hope and encouragement for individuals’ journeys towards self-sufficiency. The campus is also home to the Arizona Department of Economic Security office, where clients can complete and process benefit eligibility applications for food stamps and medical insurance through ACCESS. Clients can receive an EBT card on the spot.
That is a super short video tour of the Human Services Campus, what can usually take 60 to 90 minutes in person. As a footnote, that video was compiled before COVID, in the before times, so if you saw people without masks on, I promise it was safe when we did the recording. It’s amazing to watch and see how much we’ve adapted and evolved over the course of the last, almost a year now, since we moved into pandemic mode. As soon as we possibly can, we invite you all down to come to tour with us in person, and really spend the time to learn more about all of our partner organizations and the programs.
With me today, my first guest is Lisa Glow, the CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, or CASS. Lisa’s been alongside me through this pandemic adaptation. Why don’t you start by telling everyone about the programs currently on the campus that CASS operates?
Absolutely, thank you, Amy, and thank you for being a partner during this time. I will say to folks listening, the pandemic has brought the collaborators closer together, and it’s been remarkable how we’ve been able to keep people safe and open up smaller shelters elsewhere and so much more. So, thank you for your partnership.
CASS, Central Arizona Shelter Services has been around for 36 years, and we’re the largest emergency shelter provider in Arizona and here in Maricopa County. Most people who come to the shelter are from Maricopa County, but we get folks from other parts. That’s the adult shelter, we have a family shelter, but I’m going to talk about the adult shelter today. As the video said, we also provide case management and housing services. That’s really critical, because the first step to someone ending their homelessness is to get off the streets, and so they need a warm handoff, a place where they know people are there to support them in their success in ending their homelessness.
Our housing programs help thousands of people to end their homelessness quickly. We’re a housing-first model program, so that means getting people quickly into housing, but we also have short-term rental assistance. We do everything we can to meet the needs of the clients directly. We’re a low barrier shelter, making it easy people to come off the streets. They don’t have to be clean and sober, they can have a service animal and they can… They don’t have to take services, but our job is truly to engage them.
The collaborative part of it is absolutely critical, as I said. Our case managers work closely with all of those other partners in the video, St. Joseph The Worker, and Circle the City, and the Coordinated Entry, and Community Bridges to help wrap the services around people in their greatest time of need. And lastly, compassion is core, core, core to everything all of us do, because people are in trauma when they come to us.
Absolutely. We also just recently came to the milestone of having our request to the City of Phoenix heard at the City Council, and CASS now has this huge opportunity in front of them, thanks to the approval by the city, for there to be additional beds. So what will that mean? What would that look like in CASS? What are some of your thoughts? As we move early stages of planning to add these beds, what does it look like for CASS?
After two years the City Council did approve 700 beds for the Human Services Campus that are permanent, and 200 for weather relief. CASS has plans which we’ve been working on for quite a long time, for closer to three years. We’ve known for a long time we need to open more beds, is to expand quickly by the summer to get up to 600. That’s going to be… Because we know there are a lot of people who are going to need relief in the summer, the weather relief beds will be separate from that. 600 permanent beds by the summer.
The critical piece of that is also refurbishment of the shelter. We provide trauma-informed care, our folks are trained in that. People are traumatized from living on the streets or recently becoming homeless, but the shelter needs to reflect that environment and we need some pretty good big physical improvements. Some of that will happen by the summer, and then ongoing, it will be continued effort to make it a place where people really feel nurtured and safe.
Well, we all look forward to that happening for lots of reasons. One, we’ve all been so focused on being able to shelter more people and shelter people at the campus and in other places. You’ve been on this mission in your tenure at CASS to find funding and find other opportunities for shelter locations. Would you mind sharing with the audience, just a couple of things that you’re also working on regionally, state level to make that happen?
Absolutely, thank you for asking. When I started a few years ago, I noticed that there was an uptick in the number of senior citizens becoming homeless, so we started digging into that, and about 30% of those we serve are over the age of 55. It went up from a few prior years to when I started, three and a half years ago, with projections that the 65 and older population, nationally, becoming homeless are going to triple by 2030. So, we’re seeing the grain of the homeless population. What we’ve done is started to build specialized programming inside of CASS, with a specialized-trained team to work with seniors. Of course, we have people who work with the veterans and the youth and the chronically homeless on our case management, but because there’s such a vulnerable population, we put an extra emphasis.
During the pandemic, we were very fortunate that the City of Phoenix provided CARES act funding for us to open a temporary location for vulnerable seniors, medically vulnerable persons. We have a hundred rooms at a hotel that started in June, funded through September. The remarkable thing is, those folks get their own room, they’re COVID negative, they’re safe. They’re some of the most vulnerable. All homeless persons who’ve lived on the streets have more risk of catching COVID or have other health issues.
The goal now with Project Haven Hotel, is to convert it this year into something permanent, so we are running a bill at the legislature, which ran last year and it was moving forward. Would have provided $5 million in funding to open a senior shelter in the West Valley region. West Valley is important because that’s where the largest rise in unsheltered homelessness in Maricopa County has been happening in the last three years, 219% increase.
We have a lot of political support in that community. If the bill passes this time… Last time it was pulled because of the pandemic… If it passes this time, it will give us the ability to move into a community with a new, smaller, specialized shelter for those senior citizens, so that’s one thing. I’m a little passionate about this issue, seniors. I think we need to do better, and we need to do better by the entire homeless population.
The second thing we’re really working on is an Alliance of providers working together with politicians to build the political will in these communities, as well as to lobby together for more funding. Our state provides some funding for homeless resources, but not compared to what a lot of other states are providing, so we just need to educate and ask together, as a force, for what we need. The state would… This responsibility we all take on as providers would fall to government if we weren’t doing it, so just help us with the resources we need to be sustainable and to address the growing need, and it is growing.
Homelessness is absolutely growing and that could be a whole other show you can talk about, “Bring in the data people.” There was another thing… Oh, we opened a building in Glendale in December. That’s our other regional effort and it’s not a shelter, it’s the Norton and Ramsey Social Justice Empowerment Center. Bob Ramsey and Jenny Norton gifted us the building. It’s a small building, but it’s a co-work space, so Phoenix Rescue Mission is already working out of there. It’s a place they can bring their working clients, who are working during a day program to get showers, to use lockers, and most importantly, to connect to housing resources that CASS is bringing.
Circle the City will begin providing medical care next month, homeless ID and on and on, and we need to continue on that. It’s a smaller scale, it’s not a campus. It’s bring the services to the people where they need them. Advocacy through the alliance and our advocacy group, the Homeless Solutions Alliance will be co-chaired by Betty Guardado. That’ll build the political will, open a senior shelter and then really scale up that Glendale Center. I think there’s a lot of momentum right now with our political leaders, with what just happened at the City of Phoenix for the zoning, and with all of us raising awareness, including through shows like this.
Right. Well, thank you. It sounds like a great strategic vision for CASS, sort of that three-pronged approach, I heard you mention. Real quick, what is the Senate bill number in case people watching want to find it online?
Yes, Senate Bill 1514, and Senator David Livingston is leading the charge. It has 52 co-sponsors, which if you don’t work down at the legislature, that is remarkable. It’s already passed through Senate appropriations, it’s moving. I see this as a wave of the future, because the campus needs to continue to expand, but other communities also need to step up. If you want to weigh in on that, you can follow it and sign in and support and help us open more shelters or other options. Shelter gets a bad name, but really shouldn’t. Come and visit Project Haven, come and visit the campus.
There was one more program I wanted to mention if I could, I’m going to backtrack just a little bit, because it’s kind of fun. During the pandemic, as we were all working closely together, we knew we needed to keep people in doors as much as possible, so CASS started providing some new indoor programming around April or so. We asked the clients, “What do you need?” and they said, “We need more AA and NA programs. We need more case management support, and we need some fun and recreation,” so we started providing bingo, periodically, karaoke. I was over there the other day with that. Doing some artwork, they were making wallets out of duct tape.
The importance of that is, people are at the hardest time of their lives when they’re experiencing homelessness, so to provide some levity and some laughter and support is part of the healing process. I want to end on that, because we can’t forget, all of us have struggles, COVID has been extremely hard, so let’s find ways to bring some joy and levity, including to those experiencing homelessness.
Definitely they’re human beings after all. We all need some joy in our lives. We have CASS’s contact information that’ll come up on the screen. Invite you to not only go to their website, they’re on all the social media platforms, follow along, keep tabs of these efforts that Lisa talked about, because it really does take all of these strategies, Chris. It takes so much to really end homelessness. It takes all of these pieces and components, so I’m glad Lisa was able to join us today to share that piece.
Definitely. Collaboration, that’s the word we use, and you guys down there at the campus with the 16-partner organizations, certainly getting that job done. But as Lisa noted, so many things need more help, need more services, need more participation, just need more overall. Big Mo was always an advocate of that, always asking for more, gently pushing a little bit. Amy, you know his style and that’s what we need. So Lisa, thank you so much for all that.
Okay, we always like to highlight success stories from the Human Services Campus, Dan is certainly one of those. He’s an army veteran, he was dealing with a number of things, including health issues that led to his homelessness. But, because Dan found his way to the campus, he got his life back on track.
I am a veteran, I drove tanks in the army. I was at CASS for five months, that’s when they said that my voucher came through, and they approved the apartment. So I called my VA rep and told her, so she came down here. We loaded up our stuff, went to our new apartment. To me, this place has done so much for people. For me personally, it’s turned my life around 360 degrees. A lot of people that know me sees that. I am nowhere near the same person I was before. Before, if you walked on the same sidewalk I was, they was going to be bashed off of it. I didn’t care. But now, I try to help everybody I can. I never dreamed that this place can help that much. They turned my whole life around and gave me a whole new meaning for life.
Yes, lives indeed are being changed. Thanks to, really an army of people working together. Amy, let’s send it back to you for another discussion.
Thanks, Chris. Yes, Dan I’ve had the opportunity to talk with several times, he’s always so grateful. That was his wife sitting next to him and they’re both lovely people. It’s always, I feel, a real blessing when people are willing to share their stories with us. It’s not easy experiencing homelessness, and it’s certainly not easy to come back and talk about it after you’ve moved into housing. I’m really grateful to Dan and others that share their stories with us.
Someone else who has lots of stories that could fill episodes and episodes of the McQuaid mission is John Hogeboom, the CEO of Community Bridges. Thank you for being here today.
Thanks for having me, Amy. Thank you.
Similar to the conversation with Lisa, let’s start out with the programs that Community Bridges, or CBI, provides at the campus.
As you know, Community Bridges is a statewide provider of crisis and integrated behavioral health services. We leverage those services to provide support to those teams at the campus. We like to call ourselves your partner of behavioral health services on that campus. We have a few programs, we operate the Path Program, which works with individuals who are homeless. If they’re SMI, reconnects with service, or if there is a-
Tell everyone what SMI means.
Severely mentally ill, excuse me. Lots of acronyms, which is always fun. If the person has a history of mental illness or they may need a determination for severe mental health, the Path team assist them with doing that. We also have the Phoenix Rise Program, which has been around for quite a while, and we connect folks who are on the campus with either their behavioral health provider, or we start wrapping behavioral health services with them.
We work very closely with CASS, we work closely with St Joseph The Worker. We also provide ongoing counseling services while they’re there on the campus. We have a nurse practitioner that, if the person needs addiction medicine services or some psychiatric care, she is able to start that. Once the person leaves the campus, and if we’re able to get them into housing and provide those ongoing wraparound services, that treatment and that support will follow them.
One of the other exciting things that we do on the campus, and we’ve done for another number of years, as you earlier mentioned, is the EMTs. They’re there 24/7. Originally those folks were out there to decrease the number of not necessarily 911 calls. And over the years, they’ve evolved to really be a support to all the partners on the campus and to the folks there, to really get folks the help they need when they need it, and to the right place.
Absolutely. The EMTs, I see them in action every day, so thank you for making sure they are there along with the other programs really, truly makes a difference. I think it has reduced the number of calls to 911, so a true outcome from that addition of services. On the subject of adding shelter beds, Community Bridges came in rather late to our… Not of your choosing, but to our two year process to request shelter beds.
In the last McQuaid mission, we talked with father Dan from Andre House about what it meant with Andre House having this vacant building, could shelter a hundred people in it. Unfortunately that part of our request to the city was not approved yet. We’re all holding out and pursuing avenues to make that happen. In your words from Community Bridges perspective, what would it mean to have those 100 beds and operate slightly differently from a CASS shelter for example?
It’s a game changer. I think it’s a compliment to CASS, and it’s compliment to the services they already provided there. That population is there and it’s our population. Our mission statement is to maintain the dignity of human life and what a great opportunity and what a great partnership father Dan offered Community Bridges when he asked us to join him. For us, it gives us the opportunity to continue care for individuals who may be part of Community Bridges services, but also new individuals who haven’t received behavioral health services, but really need it.
That low demand shelter will allow us to help some of the more chronic, more critically ill individuals and get them the care they need when they need it. If that facility, that shelter is not the appropriate place, we’re able to transition to one of our facilities or one of our partner facilities, whether it be connections or recovery innovations or what have you. It’s a game changer for that community.
There’s been some confusion, I would say, in the community around what low demand means. What does low demand mean to Community Bridges?
Well, it doesn’t mean low responsibility. Our main goal is to keep people safe and provide that safe area for folks to get better. But it allows people to have active substance-use issues. It doesn’t mean that they’re allowed to use substances there, but if somebody comes in a little intoxicated, if somebody… But if they’re too intoxicated or if they go past the threshold, we have resources that we can send that person out to be assessed. I like to say that we specialize in treating angels with dirty faces. Some folks might not be on their best behavior, but if we can guarantee that safe, no harm philosophy, we’re able to help folks that might not be accepted in other areas or who have had some bad outcomes in other areas.
That’s beautiful. I’ve never heard you say that before. I’ll have to call on you now to share that everywhere we go. Last question for you, and you started to talk about this continuum that Community Bridges has access to, so we’re all collectively going to keep working with the City Council. We heard of windows of opportunity to keep pursuing those 100 beds, outside of that, what’s next for Community Bridges, regionally or statewide, that you’d like to share with people watching?
Well, we’ve partnered with City of Tucson and Pima County, so we have a low barrier shelter in Tucson now that we’re currently operating. We have, of course what used to be Bill Wilson hall, it’s our central city location, which is Called to the Bridge. We’re looking at other places across Maricopa County and also across the state to develop additional low barrier shelter, smaller, not high numbers, but either co-located at some of our facilities, or with partners, or in new areas. Just where the demand and the need is, we want to make sure that we’re there and we’re able to support the folks.
Thank you. Look forward to that, because again, it takes all of these options and choices and different sizes of programs. Homelessness isn’t going to be solved by one-size-fits-all type of solution, and always grateful, Chris, for all of our partners. We’ve said, we’re going to talk about homelessness from A to Z. This, well, we’re in the C’s, not intentionally, CASS and Community Bridges. We won’t necessarily go in alphabetical order. However, we’re at the early stages of the alphabet and talking about homelessness.
No question about that. To learn more about Community Bridges, by the way, this is the information, Communitybridgesaz.org, the phone number (877) 931-9142. Okay, just a quick note that we tape and release each episode of the McQuaid Mission every other week. It first goes out on our STN app, which you can download on Google play or the app store. Now, along with this series, you can find so much content dealing with community leaders, working together to make the Valley a better place on our STN apps. Certainly download that.
Okay, before we put a wrap on this episode, I want to bring back Amy and John for this new segment. We debuted it earlier this month, it’s called MythBusters. Amy did such a great job a couple of weeks ago, busting that myth with the panhandlers at the intersections. And by the way, Amy, I already went to the website, I already got the cards, I printed them out. They’re in my car. I can not wait for the next opportunity that I have to hand out that information to someone. But anyway, here are the questions, and you and John are definitely experts in this area. So bust this myth. Most people just assume when they see a homeless person, a man or woman, they put them into two categories, either substance abuse problems, drug addict, or they have severe, or just mental health issues. Are those the only two boxes that can be checked?
Those are definitely not the only two boxes that can be checked. In Maricopa County, we’ll probably have over 10,000 people who experience homelessness this year in a 12 month period. John, do you want to take a shot first at describing from your experience? It’s not all mental health issues, it’s not all substance abuse issues.
No, but it’s the first thing that comes to people’s minds. Not right, wrong. It just is. We see a lot of folks who are elderly as Lisa was talking about, that is a growing population, unacceptably. We also see a lot of folks who were working paycheck to paycheck that have a health bill, or something that just pushes them over the edge into losing opportunity.
Many years ago, we started providing services at CASS, we found the majority of individuals that were homeless there at that time, were individuals who had high medical bills, they couldn’t afford them, or had some unfortunate life event. A few years after that, when I was doing groups at the family shelter Vista Colina, majority of folks I was working with didn’t have substance-use issues. There were definite employment and falling on hard times.
We have lots of data we can share. 40% of people who come to the Human Services Campus self-report a mental health issue as a barrier to housing stability. Maybe that’s underestimated, it’s certainly not a hundred percent of people. I think that’s one of the challenges we have in our sector working to end homelessness, is that people are searching for an easy answer. I always say, they’d like to have the easy button and just say, “Make homelessness disappear.” Again, if it was one thing that solved all homelessness, and unfortunately it’s not.
We’re human beings, if we serve a thousand people a day, maybe 40% of them have a mental health issue, and as John mentioned, given the times we’re in with the economy and this ripple effect that COVID is going to have, I believe on housing and homelessness, we’re going to see a lot more people facing eviction due to something that happened economically, job loss, waiting on benefits, et cetera. But, we keep at it, we have that. We are like Mike, where we say, “Be like Mike,” all the time and not to give up on anybody, regardless of it’s a mental health issue or not.
So, that’s why right now is a good time, Amy, to put up some information about never giving up, asking for help, pushing a little bit. Right? So what’s the information?
On the screen, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact people can help us in these endeavors. All of us, all of our organizations that you hear about on the show are always seeking financial support. You can visit us online, make a donation on that HSC website. You can find all of our partner information as well. If you want to support CASS, if you want to support Community Bridges, we believe that supporting one lifts us all up.
People are always inquiring about, “What kind of things do you need? Do you need toiletry items or clothing?” The answer is yes, and again, on our website, we keep a running list of what’s most needed. Most of our organizations on campus also have an Amazon wishlist, gives people a very easy way to find the exact things that we’re looking for and to be able to provide those for us.
Before my time is up Chris, if I might just also make mention, this is the McQuaid Mission, and Mike McQuaid’s birthday would be later this week on February 18th. And so, our hearts, our thoughts go out to the McQuaid family. I know in my experience of grief, the first of everything is the hardest, and I can’t imagine this first birthday without Mike being around. So our hearts and thoughts go out to the McQuaid family and we’re going to keep living and being like Mike.
Definitely. Thank you so much for saying that, Amy, we appreciate it. And thank you, Lisa, thank you, John. I think we covered a lot of stuff today, very important things. We want to thank you for joining us, thank you. Appreciate you for just participating. We want you not only to view, we want you to participate, that’s why that last graphic that Amy put up there about donations and about personal items. Go to the website, try to get involved. We want to be like Mike, and Mike would tell you to get involved, so no question about that. All right. The next McQuaid Mission episode is scheduled for March 1st. We can’t wait, we’ll see you then.