By Kimberly Simpson
Although there are many resources to provide relief for homeless men in Arizona, leaders of local Phoenix shelters told the PIN Bureau that the current demands outweigh the provided resources.
According to Arizona Department of Economic Security statewide homeless coordinator Alfred Edwards, 60 percent of the 9,882 single homeless population in 2015 were men.
Homelessness has several barriers which can keep men virtually stuck. Some of those barriers include a previous criminal conviction, untreated mental illness, job loss and untreated drug and alcohol addiction, according to David Smith, communications manager at Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS).
Leaders at CASS and the Phoenix Rescue Mission said many programs focus more on the needs of women and families, like the Phoenix Rescue Mission program Changing Lives Center for Women and Children.
The idea seems to support the perception that men are stronger and can find jobs and resources without help, Smith said. “Most people feel men should be able to go to work. But, I said, how can they, with no shoes?”
Each shelter provides programs for men, too, but the shelters say that’s only a temporary solution.
“Homelessness in Arizona is predominantly a result of economic circumstances,” according to the Arizona Commission on Homelessness and Housing Summer Survey 2013. “Housing needs to be the first intervention to move homeless people into self-sufficiency.”
CASS offers services to help people sign up for state assistance programs like medical, dental and mental health help, but the programs are temporary, David Smith said. Once a resident leaves CASS, a lot of them don’t come back, he said, so there is no way to make sure they are still receiving accurate and proper treatments.
Nathan Smith, project manager at Phoenix Rescue Mission, also expressed the need for longterm support.
Many homeless men the PIN Bureau interviewed said they felt people who try to help don’t listen to their needs and wants.
Twenty-six men at CASS, Arizona Advocates for Ex-Offenders (AAFEO) and the Phoenix Rescue Mission responded to a paper questionnaire about what they need to get on their feet. Here are some of the responses:
(Video by Kimberly Simpson)
The homeless men we spoke with said they do seek and want help.
Edgar Smith, a resident at CASS, said he needs “a job, housing and proven income.”
The Phoenix Rescue Mission provides homeless men and women with job resources, counseling and rehabilitation programs. On the campus for men, it provides an extensive year-long program, which includes addiction treatment, mental health counseling, spiritual resources and job-search support. The shelter houses more than 100 men.
Tom Crandle is a former client of the Phoenix Rescue Mission who now works for the organization managing the community market closet, a donation closet for the residents and other agencies like CASS, who need clothing assistance. Crandle is a recovering addict who said he had to “hit rock bottom to realize Jesus loved him” to get help. Before seeking help, Crandle had three felonies and an alcohol and drug addiction, and his girlfriend was pregnant with their child.
Hooked on methamphetamine for many years, he said he felt “unbreakable,” but after an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide, he knew “it was time to make a change.”
Crandle joined the Phoenix Rescue Mission five years ago and has never left.
Growing up, he said, “I didn’t know what love was.” The Phoenix Rescue Mission “is a door-opener for men.” The program offers recovery and coaching; in turn it gives the residents hope, aspiration and confidence.
Arizona is beginning to have a more proactive approach to help the men who find themselves in homelessness, Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Edwards said. Intervention programs, funding sources and an annual action plan are just some of the things the state has put in place. According to a the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness in Arizona has fallen 30 percent since 2010.
During the 2016 Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness Conference held in September, one class focused on employment barriers in homelessness. The session highlighted “Ban the Box.” Adopted by 150 cities and counties, adding Tucson in 2014, the campaign is intended to stop employers from asking people if they have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor before they’ve been offered a job or position.
“A lot of men we help have felonies from 15 to 20 years back, and they still can’t get a job,” AAFEO director David Sheppard said. “That’s not right or fair to them.” AAFEO was designed to assist ex-offenders who have recently been released from prisons with getting job training and placement, medical assistance and affordable housing.
These organizations seek to provide services in hopes to decrease the number of homeless men in Arizona.
Men at the Phoenix Rescue Mission created a hand board for this project. We asked them to apply their painted hand prints to a board. On one hand they listed the stereotypes that society placed on them, and on the other hand they listed something one might not recognize just by looking at them.
Google Map of Homeless Shelters who assist men: