More than 25 homeless people facing harsher than normal times during the COVID-19 pandemic are now safely housed thanks to a partnership between the city of Scottsdale’s Human Services Department, the Phoenix Rescue Mission and Community Bridges. The trio launched a temporary hotel shelter program in September.
“This program is the silver lining to a very tough year,” said Human Services Department Director Greg Bestgen. “Together, we have been able to help more people experiencing homelessness through CARES Act funding and support from city leaders.”
The city allocated $29 million in CARES Act funding to prioritize Community Investment and City Operations. Of the $3 million dedicated to care for our most vulnerable citizens, about $395,000 is funding the temporary hotel shelter program, which includes the Phoenix Rescue Mission navigators, Community Bridges staff, meals and security. A portion of the Housing and Urban Development fund pay for the hotel rent.
Phoenix Rescue Mission navigators are assigned to Scottsdale to meet with anyone who appears to be experiencing homelessness and assess their situation. Many times, navigators meet with the same people repeatedly to build a rapport and connect them to valuable resources. On average, navigators have about 60 contacts per week.
“This is a great partnership that creates open communication between our organizations to make a greater impact for people who are often forgotten. This program shows the city truly cares about its vulnerable population and our efforts are working to address their needs so they can successfully stay off the streets and maintain a healthy housing situation,” said Jussane Goodman, Director of Community Engagement with Phoenix Rescue Mission. “We’ve been able to collaborate with various city departments who regularly see individuals experiencing homelessness, reach out, and offer them services.”
Community Bridges has six staff members managing the 24/7 hotel shelter. Day-to-day duties are more than just greeting guests and showing them to their rooms. Staff works with the program participants to create a plan for a brighter future that includes securing long-term housing, obtaining important documents such as a driver’s license or birth certificate, providing guidance on financial matters, educating on other support programs and continuing assistance even after they leave. The program prioritizes high-risk individuals, including those older than 55 and those determined to have a disability.
“Maricopa County has always had shelter beds but there’s never been enough. These smaller specialized shelters have been absolutely necessary, and the CARES Act funding has given us resources we didn’t have before,” said Community Bridges Housing and Community Integration Director Elizabeth DaCosta. “Not only is the hotel shelter program humanely giving our high-risk vulnerable population a safe and stable place to stay, but it also decreases the risk of exposure by getting people who are experiencing homelessness tested for COVID-19 and giving them a place to isolate indoors.”
Health and safety remain top priorities and that means every referral gets tested for COVID-19. If they test positive, there are shelter programs in the county that can help them.
The program has enabled Community Bridges to get more of Scottsdale’s homeless population in their system. “Before the program, there were no people actively in a housing plan program in Scottsdale but with the temporary hotel shelter program, there are now 28.” said DaCosta. “The benefit of having more of Scottsdale’s citizens in-need reaching out is that they are able to get connected to resources and long-term support.”
Meet two “graduates” of the temporary hotel shelter program:
Meet Richard J. He is a veteran who has experienced years of homelessness, legal problems and trauma. When Richard arrived at the temporary hotel shelter, he had active warrants and was not receiving the percentage of his military benefits owed. During his one-month stay, staff helped get him on a payment plan to address the active warrants, he will soon receive more money from the Veterans Administration and he has moved into his own apartment.
Meet Michael D. After five years of being homeless, Michael now has a safe and comfortable place to stay, was able to get full-time employment, and is in the process of looking for his own apartment. The temporary hotel shelter program has also helped him obtain important documents and open his first bank account. Staff said he is extremely grateful and humbled to be a part of the program and he shows his gratitude by offering to help around the shelter and voluntarily cleans up the break room area. He also volunteers at the First Presbyterian Church to help others experiencing homelessness.
To schedule an interview with our temporary hotel shelter program clients, you can reach out to Community Bridges Housing and Community Integration Director Elizabeth DaCosta.