By Councilwoman Thelda Williams, District 1
Phoenix residents have always been generous in times of need. In January 2020, the annual Point-In-Time Count (PIT) was performed across Maricopa County. The annual street and shelter count is an effort to learn more about the individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the county.
This year, 7,419 people experiencing homelessness were counted. Of those, 51 percent were unsheltered. The unsheltered count has been steadily increasing over the years. From 2019 to 2020, the unsheltered count increased 18 percent—a higher rate than the sheltered and overall PIT counts.
Each holiday season we experience a rush of faith-based groups, nonprofits and individuals who want to help those who are experiencing homelessness. Food, clothing, and other supplies are often handed out on the streets.
While this generosity is incredible, there are unintended consequences, including wasted food, unsafe and unsanitary conditions in neighborhoods, and fewer individuals turning to established nonprofits for services that could help them end their homelessness. One time donations delivered to those experiencing homelessness can delay or divert people from seeking services.
What is the alternative? Healthy giving, all year long. This is giving that takes the long-term needs of the individual and the community into consideration. The Healthy Giving campaign encourages you to direct your time and resources to community service organizations that prioritize building personal relationships with those they serve; relationships that can improve quality of life and can lead to housing, employment, and greater independence. This can mean volunteering or donating to groups that ensure your gifts are received by those in need and will have a lasting impact.
The Healthy Giving Council is whom we turn to when recommending the best place to direct resources. The council was formed by a coalition of concerned citizens, faith leaders, social service providers, neighborhood stakeholders, businesses, local government and individuals with lived experience of homelessness to promote healthy and sustainable giving.
This holiday season, and throughout the year, please consider healthy giving through the Healthy Giving Council. For more information, visit givesmartaz.org. If you have any questions, call my office at 602-262-7444.