Blog Archives

Downtown Phoenix’s Tumbleweed Drop in Center

[Source: Tumbleweed Theater Project]

Think you know the story on homeless youth? Did you know there are over 1,000 youth without homes every night in Phoenix alone? For the past five years, ASU and Tumbleweed have been collaborating on arts projects ranging from digital storytelling to haunted houses to original theatre productions. Sponsored by Artswork, Place, Vision, Voice and the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development.

The Tumbleweed Drop in Center in downtown Phoenix, AZ provides basic needs and services for homeless and at risk youth in the Phoenix community. In addition to basic services, a partnership with community based artists at Arizona State University brings a wide variety of arts programming into the center. If you are a young person between the ages of 18 and 24 in Phoenix, interested in receiving services through the DIC, you can find us at 902 N. 5th Street, Phoenix AZ 85004 or call for more information at (602) 462-5611.

If you are interested in more information about the arts programming that happens in the center, please email them at tumbleweedtheater@gmail.com

Viewpoint: A Desert Shade of Green?

[Source: Alec Appelbaum, The Faster Times blog] — The stubborn fact of urban investment in this century involves density.  We can forget about economic growth outstripping environmental cost if we don’t invest in ways to reward people for living, working and playing close together.  That can mean big opportunities for suburban office parks, rural town centers and old-style cities, but it also means some awkward transitions for cities whose layout relies on excessive driving.  Consider downtown Phoenix.

I just went there for the annual expo of the US Green Building Council, which I suspect chose the locale as a Lenin-shipyard proclamation of their message’s reach.  And downtown Phoenix is a warren of womblike hotels and a massive conference center, with artificial efforts at urbane charm.  This includes a greeter simpering scoldingly at me when I run across the street, homeless men on aluminum benches, and a prerecorded voice telling me to “enjoy the greening of downtown Phoenix.”  The simperer reveals how underpopulated downtown remains, and the homeless hint at how underfunded the social network remains.  But the salient thing is that powerful somebodies want downtown Phoenix to not be horrible.

Yes, there are posted instructions on how to cross a street and security guards at the convention hall say I won’t find a bathing suit at the downtown mall.  But I do find one, and there are sidewalks, and the womblike hotels have balconies overlooking actual blocks and streets.  On day two of my visit, I started to get the trendline.  I saw the new light rail glide past the four old buildings, the “clean cab” company rolls around.  But standing on the Sheraton balcony, I saw again that there’s no waterline or mountains to define the horizon.  Without barriers to physical growth on all sides, it will take natural disaster or political will to make places like Phoenix develop strong centers.  Nature will provide the disasters.  Then what?

We’ll have to see whether trends in urbanizing lead to scalable industries.  It dawned on me late on my 24-hr sojourn that the Compass restaurant on 21 (”turning the direction of SW cuisine,” say elevator ads) is a rotating rooftop.  Forty years ago, these were as thorough an urban inevitable as a downtown ballpark is now.  And as I passed Phoenix’s massive and retroish Chase Field, I wondered naifishly: when people need affordable housing and good jobs, why is there enough room downtown for a fat square brick ballpark?  The riddle’s solution involves homes, business incentives for clean manufacturing, and policies that monetize the pleasures of close proximity.  Each city in America will need to work up its own formula.  As I flew home to New York in a November hurricane, I couldn’t quite rouse that old Northeastern smugness.  And that’s a hopeful sign.

Coalition raises community awareness of metro Phoenix homelessness

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — They’ll walk.  They’ll share a meal.  And hopefully, they’ll challenge the preconceived notions and myths about people who are experiencing homelessness.  This week, a coalition of 11 service providers, faith-based organizations, and non-profits which make up the Homelessness Awareness Coalition, will do their part to raise knowledge on the complex issue.  Their lofty goal, to end homelessness in Maricopa County.

According to Brian Spicker of Valley of the Sun United Way, about 8,000 individuals experience homelessness each day in Maricopa County and 14 percent of Arizona’s population lives in poverty.  More and more families and individuals are turning to Valley providers for assistance.  Lack of financial resources, eviction and job loss are the three most common reasons given by persons entering shelters.  “Homelessness impacts diverse people,” Spicker said.  “It’s not just a Phoenix issue.  It’s a Valley-wide issue.  At our last Homeless Connect, 25 percent of attendees were newly homeless.” [Note: Read the full article at Coalition raises community awareness of metro Phoenix homelessness.]

Water, apples feed bodies and souls of Phoenix homeless

[Source: Susan Casper, ABC News 15] — Even before sunrise Friday morning, volunteers started loading pick-up trucks with cases of bottled water and boxes of red apples.  Organizers and volunteers met outside the US Bank building in downtown Phoenix, which served as ground zero for the 2009 AZ Water Drive.  The goal of the drive is reach more than one thousand people.  “So I had a plan,” said organizer Dorsha Hale.  “My plan was to drive up and down the streets of downtown Phoenix and give as many homeless people I could find a cool bottle of water.”

Hale told ABC15 she organized the first drive in July 2005 after a relentless and lethal blanket of heat settled on much of the Southwest, leaving 20 people dead in Phoenix alone.  “The lack of preparation for the homeless was obvious by those sweltering on the sidewalks,” said Hale.  The community responded and this year volunteers spent their lunch hour handing out nearly 700 free bottles of water in downtown Phoenix.  [Note: Read the full article at Water, apples feed bodies and souls of Phoenix homeless.]

Phoenix homeless seek refuge from heat

[Source: Colton Shone, KTAR Radio] — The warm temperatures are making it extra tough on the Valley’s homeless population.  At the Human Services campus in downtown Phoenix, many people are seeking shelter, but some have to be turned away.  “There’s not endless resources for this sort of thing, especially now that we have a 60 percent increase in the homeless population,” director Arlene Pfeiff-Maraj said.

Pfeiff-Maraj says the shelter expects about 1,000 people Thursday night but can only hold 450.  Another 300 will stay in a nearby warehouse, and the rest will sleep in the parking lot.  [Note: Read full article at Phoenix homeless seek refuge from heat]

Metro Phoenix homeless count up 20% from 2008

[Source: Yvonne Wingett, Arizona Republic] — More single adults, families, and youths are living on the streets in metro Phoenix.  A Maricopa Association of Governments survey counted 2,918 homeless people throughout the county this year, a 20 percent increase from the 2,426 counted in 2008.  The Homeless Street Count found 230 families living on the streets, up 370 percent from last year’s count of 49 families.  The number of youths living on their own rose to 139, more than triple last year’s count. 

Each January, hundreds of agency workers, police officers, city employees and volunteers hit the streets to count the homeless.  Their findings are used to request federal funding for homeless services and to improve and expand services for non-profits.  This year’s increase in the homeless population comes after a 15 percent decline a year ago, said Brande Mead, a human-services planner with the Maricopa Association of Governments.

The count does not include the number of people living in shelters, which numbered nearly 5,000 last year, she said.  The state Department of Economic Security is conducting this year’s shelter survey; the results could be available early next week, Mead said.

The bad economy is to blame for the increase in the homeless population, experts said.  “We’re seeing more elderly, more disabled (homeless),” said Mark Holleran, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, or CASS, in downtown Phoenix.  “It just appears to be the overall result of what’s happening… with the loss of jobs and the shaky economy” and with government agencies cutting back.  There is also an uptick in the number of homeless veterans, Holleran said, which he thinks could further increase as a result of the war in Iraq.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Poor economy affecting Phoenix homeless shelter

In this Cronkite News Service report, the poor economy is leading many people to local homeless shelters.

Phoenix police, shelter reach out to troubled homeless people

[Source: Lindsey Collom, Arizona Republic] — Cecilia didn’t look up. A man who was with her had slinked away into the darkness, leaving a broken crack pipe and Cecilia alone to answer police and social workers. She rummaged through a tote filled with papers and other clutter, ignoring the headlights that broke the night and illuminated her campsite of boxes and bags on a central Phoenix roadside.

Homeless-shelter operators, on a regular nighttime sweep of downtown, said they often found Cecilia sleeping on the streets, even though she had an apartment. “For a long time, we’re just kind of thinking she was lonely,” said Sean Bonnette, a shelter manager at Central Arizona Shelter Services, Arizona’s largest homeless shelter. “She’d just come out here and stash stuff. She wants to sit out here….It’s hard to teach someone to not be homeless.”

Service providers and Phoenix police have joined forces to attack chronic homelessness by reaching out to those who won’t ask for assistance. A team of Phoenix police and CASS specialists has been crisscrossing downtown Phoenix four nights a week to engage homeless people who have severed connections with service providers and are drowning in mental illness or substance abuse. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

ASU student-led event, Dec. 5, to spotlight plight of Phoenix homeless

[Source: Janessa Hilliard, Special for The Republic] — A few extra homeless will be sleeping on the streets of downtown Phoenix on Friday night.  Arizona Student Public Interest Research Group, in affiliation with students at Arizona State University, is hosting an overnight campout to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness.  The event will take place on First Friday from 9 p.m. until midnight in the Shade Garden outside Taylor Place, the student residential complex on the ASU Downtown campus.

The students plan to spend the night sleeping in makeshift box housing and sleeping bags, creating what they are a calling Box City.  In addition, those attending the First Friday art walk, will see students dressed to appear as part of the “homeless” community, carrying signs proclaiming “Keep Your Coins, We Want Change.”  The goal is to educate fellow students and the public about the growing plight of the homeless in the Phoenix area.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Metro Phoenix homeless population growing

[Source: Dennis Lambert, KTAR Radio] — The Valley’s homeless population is growing.  Mark Holleran of Central Arizona Shelter Services said the population at the shelter in downtown Phoenix has jumped from about 550 a night to more than 1,000 over the last three years.   “Our numbers have grown probably 10 percent in the last year alone,” Holleran said.  “We think absolutely that it’s economy driven.

“The real problem I have right now is not serving people when they come in, but figuring out where they’re going to go to.  My job is to move them through the shelter system as quickly as possible.”  Eight percent of those seeking services are single adults, many of whom have addiction and correction issues, Holleran said.  CASS turns away homeless families every day because there’s simply not enough room.