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Phoenix-area campaign aims to make lasting impact on homelessness

PHOENIX — Community leaders came together Monday in Phoenix to launch a campaign that encourages better ways of giving in order to make a long-term impact on homelessness.

“We want to educate people on responsible ways to give,” Jerome Parker of the Healthy Giving Council said during the event at Saint Vincent De Paul.

Each holiday season, cities across Maricopa County experience a rush of faith-based groups, nonprofits and people who want to help the homeless by handing out food, clothing and other supplies on the streets.

The council says there are unintended consequences of “street giving,” including wasted food, unsafe and unsanitary conditions in neighborhoods and fewer individuals turning to established organizations that could help them end their homelessness.

“One of the statistics from the city of Phoenix is they actually collected 53 tons of trash off the streets between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year,” Parker said.

The council doesn’t want to discourage people from giving but is challenging community members to do it in more responsible ways.

“We want people to ask their name, ask their story, how they got there, and then hopefully people embrace the challenge to really push these individuals to the services they need,” Parker said.

“There’s mental health services, meals, housing and transportation available for them.”

The council builds on the network of groups that already exists in the Phoenix area and adds practical, sustainable ways to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness.

More than 50 nonprofits, municipalities and government programs are partnering with the council in hopes of connecting more homeless people with services.

That includes encouraging giving beyond the holiday season.

“People aren’t just homeless on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Parker said. “This is an issue 365 days a year.”

The council meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month at First Christian Church on Seventh Avenue just south of Glendale Avenue in Phoenix.

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