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Arizona Housing Coalition Blog

  • February 29, 2016 2:49 PM | Anonymous

    As we began our two-part segment on the history of homelessness last week, this week we will continue in a more in-depth look at how homelessness has changed in more recent times, especially since the 1980’s. Last week we ended with a brief introduction to Fred Karnas, a Senior Fellow with The Kresge Foundation and AZCEH presenter, and his beliefs as to what has changed throughout the course of his career. Mr. Karnas, now approaching his 33rd year working on homelessness, refers to time in two simple ways: before the McKinney-Vento Act (originally named the McKinney Act), and after the McKinney-Vento Act. In the following, you will be able to understand why he speaks of it so highly.

    Mr. Karnas began working on homelessness in 1983 in Phoenix. At this time, he recalls, there was hardly any money to speak of. Then, the passage of the McKinney Act in 1987 became a “game changer in terms of resources”. While this was an amazing step forward, it was not perfect in the beginning. “In the early days of McKinney, it was a bit of a free-for-all”, Mr. Karnas remembers. “Any organization could apply directly to HUD for program funding and, as a result there could be three transitional housing programs within a few blocks of each other and none in the rest of the city,” due to this, entire cities were unable to receive funding, an obvious problem when trying to provide proper resources to our communities. In the mid-1990’s, the introduction to the Continuum of Care became a sort of saving grace because it then forced community planning and collaboration, which he noted was extremely important, especially in its early years. “Because new resources are so limited these days, it’s hard to get everybody at the table,” Mr. Karnas says, adding, “It’s hard to change course and move from existing program models to new evidence-based models of assisting homeless persons.”

    Nearly unanimously, almost every person I spoke with agreed that we have come an extremely long way in recent years in terms of these new evidence-based models. Before, many organizations would try to fix the person before providing them housing. Now, however, we have come out with the Housing First approach which is exactly how it sounds: provide the person with housing, then work with them on their other needs (such as mental health counseling, substance abuse help, etc.). Housing First may seem rash to some, but studies show providing housing to people, for however long, is actually much less expensive than what tax payers must spend for most homeless people, which includes police, emergency healthcare, and more. In addition to costing less, people are more likely to retain housing with the Housing First approach!

    Another approach we have come to use is rapid re-housing. Rapid re-housing, as you can imagine, goes hand in hand with the Housing First approach. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness defines it as “an intervention designed to help individuals and families quickly exit homelessness and return to permanent housing. Rapid re-housing assistance is offered without preconditions — like employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety — and the resources and services provided are tailored to the unique needs of the household.

    Finally, the last model I am going to touch on is the use of a community-wide (or statewide, in Arizona’s case) coordinated assessment system. In Arizona, we use something called the Service Prioritization Decision Assessment Tool (SPDAT) created by OrgCode Consulting, Inc. to determine how chronically homeless someone is. Essentially, OrgCode Consulting, Inc. defines this as an evidence-based tool helps you assess what one person or family’s needs are as well as prioritizing who should be helped next and why, based on the score they get on this tool. It is, however, important to note that not everyone uses the SPDAT, and it is just used as an example as to what Arizona specifically uses.

    All of these no doubt helps in collaboration across the board. In the pre-McKinney days, Mr. Karnas recalls the only way those on the front lines could get any work done was to collaborate. “Groups like the Community Housing Partnership, Southwest Behavioral Health, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Ozanam Manor, the police, the city, and activists met every Thursday for several years under the loosely organized ‘Consortium for the Homeless,’” he recalls. “There, we brought to the table what resources we had and cobbled together the programs which initially met the needs of the growing homeless population in the city.  Until relatively recently, with the creation of the United Way Ending Homeless Advisory Committee, the Coordinated Intake System, the reorganization of the Continuum of Care, and the Funders Collaborative, the collaborative efforts of the early days were undermined by turf and fiscal challenges.

    As you can tell, we have come a long way not only from the fist documentation of homelessness in the 1640’s, but as recently as the pre-McKinney days, where nonprofits were struggling for any little morsel of funding to help. But, if it wasn’t for their efforts and their work together, we wouldn’t have come as far as we have in recent years as far as not only funding, but collaboration and evidence-based models for properly and efficiently assisting homeless people. While no, we haven’t ended homelessness yet, we’re much closer than where we were. We must keep working together in this fight to end homelessness until we are sure that every person in not just Arizona, but everyone in America has a roof over their heads and a bed to call their own.

  • February 22, 2016 2:34 PM | Anonymous

    If you go up to a random person on the street and ask them “when did homelessness begin?” they are sure to not know the answer. You see, most people are under the impression that homelessness is a new phenomenon, only beginning within the last 30 years. This, however, is a complete façade. Throughout this post, we will explain when homelessness began and how it’s changed over  the years into what it is today. And with that we invite you to sit back, relax, and travel through time with us and learn what the history of homelessness really is.

    During an interview with Street News Network, known AZCEH presenter Jeff Olivet, has cited that since as early as 1640, homelessness has been documented in America in journals and public records. During this time, wars fought between the Native Americans and the settlers affected people on both sides of the spectrum. With settlers moving inland from the big cities and causing more fighting with the Native Americans, the Native Americans were beginning to become homeless along with settlers. Mr. Olivet has also said that there are many documented cases in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia from 1640-1660’s. You see, between the 1600’s and 1700’s, in order to settle in a new town, you had to pay a visit to the town fathers.  When you visited the town fathers, you had to essentially plead your case. Show them that you will be able to farm your land, build your own house, and that you won’t be a burden to the other citizens of that town. If they didn’t believe you, though, you had to pack up and find another place to live.

    Now, let’s pause there for a minute. If this sounds as strange to you as it did to me, keep in mind that this is still happening in this country, just in a different way. Immigrants and refugees must still make their case as to why they deserve to live in this country and people still decide if they believe them enough to let others immigrate here. So, who was generally told to keep moving? Catholics, people with disabilities and mental illness, alcoholics, widows, orphans, the elderly; in all reality the list could go on and on. It was essentially people who were perceived to not be able to pull their weight in society and thus birthing this transient class of people, moving from town to town, pleading their case to town fathers and being denied, just trying to find a place to settle down.

    From there, what could possibly be the first federal policy that caused massive homelessness, was the displacement of Native Americans. Olivet explains that the Native American tribes were essentially uprooted, moving to Oklahoma, then creating the Trail of Tears. Around that time, the Industrial Revolution started around the 1820’s-1830’s. Chicago was beginning to gain leverage for trade and industry, and people began moving from farms to the big cities, a movement that created a poor urban underclass. People moved into cities hoping they would find jobs but ended up homeless. Again, people who had disabilities, who were physically unable to work, and who wouldn’t get along with others (what we now call borderline personality disorders) were the ones who felt homelessness in its fullest effect. There in turn became a massive increase of people on the streets of Philadelphia and New York, creating the first anti-panhandling ordinances. City jails became shelters in a sense; criminalizing the homeless became a norm, which is what we are still dealing with today.

    Fast forwarding to the Civil War, field medicine reached new heights, morphine became in use and people who had to get limbs amputated could now survive such amputations whereas before, a loss of limb would essentially be death sentence. Similar medical advances are happening now, Olivet noted. “Things like traumatic brain injury-people are surviving who wouldn't have 10 or 15 years ago, and we're beginning to see them on the streets. More people with physical injuries, more people who are mentally disabled-we saw that in the Civil War too. It's not new for veterans to become homeless.

    From there, the train system began to take off, making it easier for people to move. There was a big increase in people moving from small towns, to big cities, right back to small towns. People began to move from the South, especially African Americans, to the North. Back then you only had to pay a few cents in order to stay on the sticky, dirty, vomit-covered floor of a tavern.

    This is around the time where Chicago became one of the first hubs of academic study about homelessness, and sociology began to come together. People like Alice Solenberger, writer of One Thousand Homeless Men which was one of the first big studies of homelessness and Nels Anderson who wrote The Hobo began to attempt to fight the stigma of homelessness.

    1927 began the next big wave of homelessness, which was caused by a massive flood of the Mississippi River, from Ohio and Missouri down to New Orleans which expelled around 1.3 million people, which to put in context was more than double the amount of homeless in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Johnny Cash has since written “Five Feet High and Rising,” a song about this flood. This flood in turn created the first massive relief effort by the federal government.

    With the Great Depression of 1929 the amount of homeless people sky rocketed to a number we’ve never seen before and possibly haven’t seen since. “Now, one of the upsides of the Depression is that it was the first opportunity for the United States government to jump into action to address homelessness-and they did,” Olivet notes, “from 1933 to '36 the U.S. government instituted the FTS, or the Federal Transient Service, and it was a fantastic federal program that funded shelters and arts programs and health centers and job training and work camps and housing for people who were homeless. And it was remarkably effective.

    From the 1940’s-1960’s, poverty decreased with the war. It is important to note, though, that while the amount of homeless people went down, many were still teetering on the edge of extreme poverty and homelessness. Then, from the 1960’s-1970’s we saw the groundwork for the current wave of homelessness: the Vietnam War. People returned home both physically and mentally distressed and mental hospitals were closing down without offering help to those who were now free from those mental hospitals.

    When asked if there was a policy to counter this trend, Olivet explains that, “Compounding the current situation was cuts in federal funding to affordable housing in the '80s and '90s. The current homelessness wave is absolutely a result of the fact that we don't do a good job taking care of people with mental and substance-abuse problems.” Now, I must pause here for one main reason. Recently, I reached out to a few people who currently work in the homeless sector of nonprofits, one of which is Fred Karnas, a Senior Fellow with The Kresge Foundation and AZCEH presenter. Mr. Karnas, who is approaching his 33rd year of working on homelessness in varying capacities, was the first person I thought of when I read this statement by Mr. Olivet. You see, I asked Mr. Karnas, and many others, one simple question: how has the homeless service sector changed to you throughout your career? During his extensive response, Mr. Karnas continuously referenced the McKinney Act (later renamed the McKinney-Vento Act) of 1987, even once calling it “a game changer in terms of resources”.

    Do you want to learn more about Mr. Karnas’ and others’ opinions on how the homeless service sector has changed throughout their career, as well as more on the McKinney-Vento Act? Stay tuned for next week’s blog post which will be the second part of this story!

  • February 15, 2016 2:49 PM | Anonymous

    You asked – we delivered. As you may already know, Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness has big plans for 2016. This year we are furthering our dedication to training homeless service providers by providing year-round trainings! Yes, that’s right, we are going well beyond our annual statewide conference by extending our trainings throughout the year, and in the beginning of this year alone we have a slew of trainings, which we will touch on in a minute.

    In 2015 alone, in addition to creating a new position within our organization dedicated to our membership and training, we have also provided 76 hours of training to over 1,100 homeless service professionals across Arizona, in partnership with ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, and with the generous participation from Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Department of Housing, Arizona Department of Health Services – Division of Behavioral Health Services, and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care. In our January 14th email, we outlined the many amazing trainings we provided in 2015, including Breaking Barriers: Ensuring Fair Housing and Employment Opportunities for Persons with Criminal Convictions or Disabilities in Phoenix; Tools of the Trade: How to Connect your Caseload to Benefits in Tucson; a statewide tour of Excellence in Housing-Based Case Management in Phoenix, Benson, Yuma, Kingman, and Cottonwood; and our very first webinar, Understanding TANF: A Look at TANF Cash Assistance in AZ, co-hosted with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence. All of these trainings were in addition to our 22nd Annual Statewide Conference to End Homelessness, with over 470 attendees and trainings ranging anywhere from the Impact of Racial Inequality on Homelessness to a fishbowl discussion of key players in best practices statewide for coordinated entry and assessment.

    This year, AZCEH is upping the ante with our year-round trainings. We are doing this because in order to tackle the larger issues of poverty and systemic oppression that impact housing and homelessness, we must work together, share ideas and resources, progress in best practices of collective impact, and network, network, network with each other to build connections and strengthen relationships. From now until March alone, we have many amazing training opportunities including Homelessness 101: Trauma-Informed Care, Housing First & Permanent Supportive Housing, presented by ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy on February 26th; Excellence in Housing-Based Case Management, presented by Iain De Jong of OrgCode Consulting in Yuma, Flagstaff, and Phoenix from February 9th – March 2nd; and the RECENTLY ANNOUNCED Making Client Connections: Diversion 101 and Assertive Engagement, presented by Iain De Jong of OrgCode Consulting in Tucson March 4th. If you are interested in attending any of these trainings, please visit the links attached to the training names.

    These trainings don’t even include Motivational Interviewing (MI) Basics, presented by ASU's Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, the wonderful training on Arizona’s Revenues and Spending: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Heading where we teamed up with the Arizona Housing Alliance and presenter Karen McLaughlin with the Children’s Action Alliance or the up-and-coming SPDAT Academy, where they will focus on the practical application of Arizona’s adopted statewide Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) for coordinated entry for single adults, families, and youth  and how each student can train others to properly and effectively administer the SPDAT in their local communities throughout Arizona’s three Continua of Care.

    From here on out, all trainings will be updated on our website in the events section throughout the year. We choose the trainings we do based off of suitable suggestions that we receive from our member organizations. As many can see our affiliate and full member organizations (and their employees) are able to get a special reduced price for all trainings, and this is provided for these members because of their work providing direct service to those experiencing homelessness.

    As stated above, the accessibility to these trainings for organizations and their employees is vital to tackling the larger issues of poverty and systemic oppression that impact housing and homelessness. We must work together on these issues, share ideas and resources, the best practices of collective impact and network together in order to build new connections or strengthen old relationships because it is vital to continue to serve these communities in the best and most effective ways.

    Do you have a training you think would be good to have? Let us know in the comments section below!


  • February 01, 2016 12:26 PM | Anonymous

    How did the SPDAT Academy come to be?

    As Arizona continues to establish and implement best practices that support Housing First principles, the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness is committed to the statewide training of our state’s homeless service providers and professionals. In our first year of offering off-conference training opportunities, we are proud to have provided over 76 hours of education and training to over 1,100 homeless service professionals in 2015 with significant and critical training in known best practices. AZCEH is honored to have partnered with ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, as well as utilize the generous participation of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Department of Health Services – Division of Behavioral Health Services, and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care.

    In order to continue our commitment towards building statewide training, AZCEH and its partners are investing in the training and education to build trainer/training capacity through the SPDAT Academy, which is a one-day intensive train-the-trainer course. This course will focus on the practical application of Arizona’s adopted statewide Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) for coordinated assessment for single adults, families (F-SPDAT), and youth (Y-SPDAT), and how each student can train others to properly and effectively administer the SPDAT in their local communities throughout Arizona’s three Continua of Care – Maricopa County, Pima County, and Balance of State.

    Building on the practical foundations of education, training, and work experience, students of the SPDAT Academy will ideally be case managers, housing directors, or supervisors with working knowledge of and experience with using the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT to assist with service connection and housing stability, especially those supported by and utilizing SPDAT scores to assist with housing-based case management core concepts and techniques.

    So, why should YOU apply?

    The information and data being collected through the SPDAT is helping drive funding decisions at all levels throughout Arizona – city, county, regional, and statewide. The significance of this data and housing-based case management & supportive housing techniques is critical to not only the successful end to homelessness for our clients, but also to the successful funding and support of the right tools, services, and programs. As AZCEH works to expand training opportunities that support these efforts, we are in need of local community leaders who understand, support, and encourage collective impact.

    SPDAT Academy applicants will be critical to the success of local communities in the implementation and further adoption of Housing First principles because you will be assisting in the proper training and support of the frontline assessment tool that is helping to prioritize service connection and supports that end homelessness. If you are interested in leading the policies, procedures, and tools that are shaping Arizona’s homeless service response system, join the conversation and lead the charge by applying to be a SPDAT Academy graduate trainer with the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness.

    At the completion of the SPDAT Academy, and upon being SPDAT Trainer-certified, Academy graduates will be required to conduct two (2) trainings per year as a contracted SPDAT Trainer with AZCEH, as well as participate in quarterly meetings regarding coordinated assessment at the local and statewide level to ensure inter-rater reliability. Through the SPDAT Academy, it is the goal of AZCEH to work collectively to support the development of all our service providers statewide; the staff and board of AZCEH is committed to the investment in creating statewide training opportunities ranging from monthly SPDAT trainings, to Housing-Based Case Management, motivational interviewing, trauma-informed care, permanent supportive housing, assertive engagement, mental health first aid, and other relevant opportunities that will support the entire provider community.

    HISTORY: Why the VI-SPDAT/SPDAT?

    In 2010, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) put forth a plan to reflect a national priority, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The focus of this plan was on utilizing best practices, such as Housing First, to help prevent and quickly end periods of homelessness for individuals struggling with housing stability. Also highlighted within the plan as a means to increasing access to stable and affordable housing are assessments and targeting mechanisms that prioritize based on acuity and overall assistance needed to transition out of one’s own homelessness.

    “Assessment and targeting mechanisms need to be used to distinguish between those who can resolve their homeless situation on their own or with mainstream supports, those who need targeted short-term assistance, and those who require long-term housing assistance. Factors include being extremely low income, paying more than 50 percent of income on rent, and precipitating events like domestic or sexual violence and illness. Available resources should also be targeted to the most vulnerable populations, including children and their families, unaccompanied youth, people with disabling conditions, and frail elders.” (Page 38, Increase Access to Stable and Affordable Housing: Objective 3, USICH, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, 2010)

    As a part of coordinated assessment in Arizona, which is helping policy makers and funders know how, where, and for whom to invest in various housing programs, the assessment and targeting mechanisms that have been adopted and are being used are the VI-SPDAT and the SPDAT; Vulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, created and maintained by OrgCode Consulting. In line with this federal strategic objective, and at the direction of Arizona’s three Continua of Care – Maricopa County managed by the Maricopa Association of Governments, Pima County managed by the Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness, and the Balance of State managed by the Arizona Department of Housing – the SPDAT is an evidence-informed approach to assessing an individual’s or family’s acuity, which refers to the severity of a presenting issue, and, for the purposes of the VI-SPDAT/SPDAT, is expressed as a number with higher numbers indicating more complex, co-occurring disorders which impact the individual’s or family’s housing stability. (For more about the difference between higher acuity and chronic homelessness, please read OrgCode’s blog post here.)

    Help AZCEH and its partners continue progressing towards an end to homelessness by serving as a leader in your local community by helping us with the successful and effective implementation of this critical assessment tool.

  • January 25, 2016 2:28 PM | Anonymous

    The time has come! This week is our annual Maricopa County StandDown, being held at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum from Thursday January 28th and Friday January 29th, with court services on Saturday January 30th. Throughout this post, we will be outlining things for not only the veterans receiving services, but the volunteers to know and keep in mind as well. With that, let’s get on with the show!

    Veterans

    Veterans receiving services should be advised that services begin at 8 am, are opening the doors around 6:30. Please keep in mind that these lines do get extremely long so the earlier you arrive the better. The first thing you will do when you get to the beginning of the line is registration. Be warned, this is a long task but those volunteering at registration work as hard and fast as possible so you are able to start receiving services. Once you have been successfully registered you are able to get all of the services you are in need of! On Thursday, there will only be registration for the courts, but they will be in session on Friday and Saturday. All other services will only be on Thursday and Friday. For the full list of services along with transportation pick up locations, please click here. Be advised, it is very chaotic inside of the coliseum but there will be volunteers to help you navigate throughout the event if you wish. There are no weapons allowed and all services are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

    Volunteers

    First, we’ll start with parking. To enter the fairgrounds, go to 19th Avenue off Monte Vista Road (there is a light and is the main entrance to the Fairgrounds off 19th Avenue). Show the parking pass you’ve received and/or tell the guard your name and that you are volunteering with Maricopa County StandDown. Park in the lot north of the Coliseum. Volunteer entrance is up the ramp to the second floor of the Coliseum on the North side. As noted above in the veteran section, it is very hectic inside the coliseum so be advised of that. You may be asked to do a lot of walking, so please wear the proper shoes for that. Snacks and water will be provided to those who volunteer, but most importantly, remember to bring an open mind and a full heart. Your time and energy is greatly appreciated by all. If you'd like any more information on what volunteers have experienced, please click here.

    The Veterans Memorial Coliseum is located at 1826 W McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ.


  • January 18, 2016 8:59 AM | Anonymous

    Written by Nicky Stevens (Director of Housing at Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation and AZCEH Board Chair)

    Nicky Stevens, AZCEH Board Chair 2015-2017As the new Board Chair for the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, I am grateful to be a part of inspiring groups of people throughout Arizona who are working to end homelessness in every corner of our state through collaborative efforts that have been nationally recognized.

    However, on this day -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- in particular, and with the Point-In-Time counts coming up statewide next week, we must remain mindful that people of color continue to be overrepresented every year in our annual street and shelter counts. While African Americans represent just five percent of Arizona’s entire population, this specific demographic continues to make up close to 30% of the overall homeless population in our state. This is unacceptable. 

    "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"
    -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I know from my role as Director of Housing at Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation, discrimination still continues to play a role for many African Americans who are experiencing homelessness, especially in terms of access to housing within apartment complex communities. African Americans are less likely to be shown an apartment that is available, or be just flat out denied for various reasons, than their Caucasian counterparts. These issues make it more likely for them to experience homelessness and remain homeless longer than a person who is white. While poverty may play a factor in this overrepresentation, it still does not account for these high numbers. We must ask ourselves why and act on this knowledge.

    Whether it’s getting a job or leasing an apartment, societal prejudices have disparate impacts among African Americans. When employment cannot be obtained or housing stabilized because of a “black-sounding name,” the cycle of poverty and homelessness remains the same, not only in our state but across the country. We cannot avoid the conversation about race within our work and expect it to go away or be resolved with time. We must keep the conversation going and be mindful of the disparities that still affect people of color in our communities. The conversations are difficult, but unavoidable. They are also necessary as we continue the work of ending homelessness; let us not forget those who may not have a voice in our community or even a place at the table. Help me in being that voice through mindfulness.

    You can also see first-hand the diverse populations of those experiencing homelessness by volunteering for your local Point-In-Time Street Count coming up next week. Help us better understand how many individuals and families are experiencing homelessness in our community and be better equipped to meet their needs.  The PIT Count is a one-night street count to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness in Arizona during a given point-in-time. The count includes a brief survey to identify some characteristics of people experiencing homelessness in the community.  The statewide count in broken up into three geographic areas:

    o Maricopa County Point-in-Time Street & Shelter Count - January 26th, 2016 
    More information | Register to volunteer

    o Pima County Point-In-Time Street & Shelter Count - January 27th, 2016
    More information | Register to volunteer

    o Balance of State Point-in-Time Street & Shelter Count - Details forthcoming 
    Please watch the AZCEH website and social media for more info


  • January 13, 2016 2:53 PM | Anonymous

    Every time the word “fundraiser” is said, nonprofit professionals everywhere feel an unexplained shudder. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but we all know the feeling of dread we get when thinking about planning a fundraiser. Every year seems to be the same. A gala for one organization, a 5K for another. Isn’t there some way to spruce things up a bit? Make it a little less uniform? Yes, there is. We’re here to tell you different ways to up the ante on your fundraising skills.


    A classic fundraising tool is organizing a 5K walk/run, although effective it is overdone. But if it works, why give the run up completely? Fundraiser Help outlines a multitude of ways to spice up whatever the fundraiser may be, by simply making them themed. You can have a zombie 5K, where participants dress up as the undead and gore-ify themselves; a bed race, where competitors have to carry their beds with them while racing; a Jingle Bell Walk, a holiday themed walk; the Ninja Challenge, a 5K designed with various challenges throughout the course ranging anywhere from scaling walls, doing pull-ups, throwing ninja stars, running on wooden boards floating on the water, and more! This course has been working well for the Red Cross and others. A spin-off of that race is a Hunger Games themed 5K walk/run but includes challenges like archery, different obstacles in the course, and eating weird food items that are meant to gross out competitors.


    If you’re not one for the 5K walk/run, don’t worry, we have some ideas for you as well. Going off of the zombie theme, you can hold a zombie game night, costume contest, “prom”, or convention. If zombies aren’t your thing, a block party style fundraisers are a great idea, since passersby are more likely to stop by, and in turn not only donate but become more familiar with your organization. Block parties can include chili cook-offs, craft beer fairs, “taste of the town” (where some of the best food in town is all in one place, for everyone to try out! With this, remember to include local businesses!), Star Wars/Star Trek or Mardi Gras.


    Have an event you’d like to spice up? Hold a reverse raffle. When people attend your fundraiser, they all get a raffle ticket. The prize? Having to do something slightly embarrassing or just a gag gift. The idea is for people to sell their ticket back to your organization to get out of the embarrassing act. In doing so, you should make more money. To make this more unique, make a sliding scale. For example: the first 5 people to sell their ticket back pay $5, 5 people after that pay $10 and so on!


    Have you ever been to a fundraising event that was so fancy you just had to think about how they could even break even, much less raise enough money to have any substantial gain? As pointed out by The Fundraising Authority, if you hold a low-end event and charge as much as you would for a fancy-schmancy event you will make more money which is just as much fun. So, instead of having a 5 course meal at a high end restaurant, try holding a dinner with burritos at a Holiday Inn. When doing so, send your funders a letter that explains the fact that by holding a smaller event, the organization will in turn have more money for whatever you plan to do.


    Do you have a favorite fundraising technique? Let us know what yours is in the comments below!

  • January 06, 2016 12:43 PM | Anonymous

    Earlier this year, we were blessed enough to speak to a former volunteer of our very  own Maricopa County StandDown. Ceyshe’, now working with AmeriCorps Public Allies Arizona at Center for Neighborhood Leadership, was an intern with Valley of the Sun United Way when she was asked to volunteer for the Maricopa County StandDown in 2014, which she readily agreed to. At first, Ceyshe’ was a volunteer navigator, in case any of the volunteers had questions or she needed to help them find someone to assist. But, around 9 or 10 in the morning, they were short about 100 volunteers, and without hesitation Ceyshe’ jumped into action. The first man she helped stated that he wanted to leave right away, and seemed to have been experiencing a minor episode of PTSD. Feeling helpless, she ran after him and assured him all would be okay, and he finally agreed, and they went on their way searching for all of the assistance this man needed. Even though he was slipping in and out of episodes of PTSD, she was still able to help him and he seemed extremely thankful for that.


    On the second day, she met a man who she decided to call Enrique (for privacy purposes). Though he didn’t say much, he still had an incredible impact on her and how she saw people who are homeless. While waiting in line for the DMV for what seemed like hours, a man finally came up to them and asked what he was there for. While explaining that Enrique needed an ID card, the man looked down at the clear ID holder around his neck and stated that Enrique did not lose his ID, but it was in his holder the whole time. Realizing how silly it was that he didn’t realize this sooner, Enrique kind of just shrugged it off and started walking towards the station where people can get glasses. As Ceyshe’ told me about this, she couldn’t help but smile because of how silly she felt for not recognizing it earlier. Once they finally got the glasses, the man was so thankful for this new opportunity he stated, “now I can finally read the paper”. And, with that, he swiftly thanked her and left.


    After having an ample amount of time to reflect, Ceyshe’ still believes this is the best event she has ever volunteered for. When I asked her if she had any advice for future volunteers for this event, she simply said that they should expect a slow process. On her first day, she only worked with 2 veterans and felt like she wasn’t doing enough to help everyone. By the end of her second and final day volunteering, she was only able to help 5 men total, and felt extremely guilty about that. While we’d like to help out as many veterans as we possibly can, that’s just not possible since every veteran has their own specific needs. Even if you just help one veteran in your shift, you’re still making a difference.


    “We can help these people,” she said during the end of her interview, “they deserve dignity just as much as the next person.”


    To register for the 2016 Maricopa County StandDown please click here.
  • December 21, 2015 12:58 PM | Anonymous

    Every year December 21 marks the end of Fall and the longest day of the year. However, what most people fail to realize is it’s also National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Too many of our homeless friends and relatives fail to get recognized through public policy. Through storytelling, many more people are likely to listen to what hardships those who are homeless go through and puts a more personable aspect on their lives. In honor of remembering those who have lost their battle with homelessness, we implore everyone to share a special memory of someone you know who has now lost their battle with homelessness. These stories, in turn, will be used to influence public policy and will help us continue our fight towards ending homelessness. We will bring these stories right to the ears, and hearts, of those with the power to create this change. This will help our elected officials understand what the different needs are for those who are homeless. Sharing your story with our Advocacy Story Bank gives you the honor of giving a voice to those who are voiceless.


    Everybody’s stories matter. Will you share a friend’s story who is no longer able to share their own?


  • December 14, 2015 10:48 AM | Anonymous

    The issue of affordable, healthy food is of utmost importance for many people, not just those who suffer from homelessness. Even in our state, we live within the boundaries of food deserts. For those who don’t know, a food desert is defined by the USDA as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Today, we’re here to help with finding healthy, affordable food throughout Arizona. Ready to dive deep and take this trip with us?


    From Flagstaff to Yuma, there’s a slew of necessary resources available to help you afford what’s essential for a healthy, balanced diet. One prime example is the cookbook Good & Cheap by Leanne Brown. This cookbook is geared towards those with tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. In the book, Leanne states that "kitchen skill, not budget, is the key to great food. Good cooking alone can't solve hunger in America, but it can make life happier -- and that is worth every effort." In this book, you are able to learn how to make delicious and nutritious meals off of only $4 a day, while still getting over 100 easy recipes like caramelized bananas to Filipino chicken adoba. This book goes off of a “get one, give one” system, meaning when you buy one of these books, another goes to someone in need. If your non-profit organization is interested in providing a special edition of the book to clients or others with limited income, bulk purchases of 10 or more copies are available at deep discounts by contacting goodandcheap@workman.com for more info.


    As you may know, authorized growers at approved farmer’s markets accept WIC, EBT/SNAP as well as AZFNMP. If you use your WIC check, you may use your Cash Value Vouchers at the approved farmer’s markets to buy fruits and vegetables. Additionally, 28 locations throughout Arizona are licensed to accept EBT/SNAP benefits. To find different farmer’s markets throughout Arizona, look no further than the Arizona Community Farmer’s Markets for specific dates and times you can locate a farmer’s market near you!


    Transportation is an undeniable problem when trying to find fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Luckily, Fresh Express by Discovery Triangle is here to help those within the “triangle” that ranges from Papago Park to Tempe to Phoenix by bringing those delicious fresh and affordable produce to you. This undeniably genius invention is a mobile market selling fresh produce at schools, senior centers and community gathering places. Fresh Express increases access, availability and affordability of fresh produce for Discovery Triangle residents as well as providing health and wellness resources to empower the community to make healthy choices.


    Additionally, if you or someone you know needs emergency food assistance (such as a food bank, pantry, soup kitchen, etc.) there are plenty of places for you to get the food you need. The Arizona Association of Food Banks has a vast selection of various places throughout Arizona to receive emergency food assistance and includes all of the required information needed in order to be helped.


    Always keep in mind when you go out to eat  to support your local businesses and restaurants. In doing so, you help money stay in the amazing communities you love. This keeps food at a lower cost, and you know the food you’re getting is coming from your trusted neighbors. Check out a complete list of local foods by using Good Food Finder AZ which is a Local First Arizona Foundation.


    What are some ways you use to cut food costs while still staying healthy? Give us some tips in the comments to include in the future!

Arizona Housing Coalition is a 501(c)(3) non-profit
Federal Tax ID#: 86-0909029

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