There were at least 7,419 people experiencing homelessness in metro Phoenix at the start of 2020 when providers conducted the annual point-in-time count in Maricopa County.
That number likely has increased over the course of the year as COVID-19-related job loss has forced even more Arizonans into homelessness.
More than half of the people experiencing homelessness in the county are living “unsheltered” — sleeping on the streets, in desert washes, vehicles or another place not meant for habitation.
People experiencing this type of homelessness have significant needs ranging from food and water to blankets and clothing.
But experts say the best way to help people experiencing homelessness is not to give them these items directly, but to donate to nonprofit organizations that can make sure people are getting the items they need while also trying to provide them with services.
“It’s counterintuitive, but it really is the way to give,” said Phoenix Councilwoman Debra Stark, who helped form a partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor Americas to promote “healthy giving” on local billboards.
Healthy giving helps end homelessness
Jerome Parker, a community pastor at First Christian Church, helped start the Healthy Giving Council several years ago. Like many churches, his church collects donations for people experiencing homelessness.
They used to give directly to people on the streets, but Parker realized that their help may be doing more harm than good.
When donors give food and supplies directly to people living on the streets, there’s no incentive for them to go to nonprofits, which means they’re not engaging with outreach workers who try to connect them with housing, jobs and other services that could help end their homelessness.
Additionally, giving food and other items directly often leaves behind trash and blight, stoking conflict between neighborhoods and people experiencing homelessness. This has come to a head in the neighborhood surrounding the Human Services Campus near downtown Phoenix this year.
Parker said the Healthy Giving Council does not discourage people from collecting items and donating them to help people experiencing homelessness — they simply ask that those donations go directly to the professionals at nonprofits who can deliver the items and help people get needed services.
When he gets pushback from people who would rather give directly, he asks them one question: “If you have an opportunity to help this person get closer to ending their homelessness … would you take advantage of that opportunity?”
“That’s the easiest test question ever. Obviously the answer is, ‘yes,'” Parker said.
The best way to do that is through healthy giving, he said.
Lisa Altenbernd of north Phoenix arranged a healthy giving donation drive with her family, friends and neighbors starting in October. After posting that she wanted to collect hygiene items for people experiencing homelessness on Nextdoor, her guest room began overflowing with toothbrushes, shampoo, feminine products, razors and more.
“The response I got was absolutely amazing. My goal was to do 100 kits and it turned into 200,” she said.
Altenbernd filled the bed of her pickup truck with neon-colored, drawstring backpacks containing hygiene products for men and woman and dropped them off at Central Arizona Shelter Services on Wednesday morning.
CASS will hand them out during hygiene classes offered in their building on the Human Services Campus. While on the campus, people experiencing homelessness can visit more than a dozen other service providers that help with job searching, medical and dental care and many other services.
CASS, the largest emergency homeless shelter in Arizona, is among the more than 100 Arizona nonprofits supported by The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com’s annual holiday giving campaign, Season for Sharing.
Thanks to donations from last holiday season alone, Season for Sharing gave over $250,000 this year to at least 17 local nonprofits that help Arizonans experiencing homelessness.
How to donate to Season for Sharing
With the help of our readers, we’ve raised — and given away — nearly $68 million to nonprofit organizations around the state over the past 26 years. Help us continue that support.
- Here are four ways to donate to Season for Sharing:
- Fill out the secure, online form at sharing.azcentral.com.
- Text “SHARING” to 91-999 and click on the link in the text message.
- Go online at facebook.com/seasonforsharing and look for the “DONATE HERE” post.
- Clip the coupon on Page 4A of The Arizona Republic, fill it out and mail it to P.O. Box 29250, Phoenix AZ 85038-9250.
Where does the money go?
When you give to Season for Sharing, your donation goes toward helping nonprofits that help the homeless as well as support education, feed the hungry and help struggling families.
Every dollar of your donations and matching funds go to Arizona nonprofit organizations, because all overhead and fundraising costs are covered by The Republic.
Matching your donation
Through partnerships with our community partners the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and the Arizona Community Foundation, your charitable donations have even more of an impact.
Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust matches 50 cents on the dollar up to $100,000.
The Arizona Community Foundation provides the grant application portal and manages the collection of donations and distribution of grants.
Where to donate goods
There are dozens of local organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness.
Most of them accept new and gently used items to help them support individuals in need.
Here’s what items each organization is looking for:
About: “Hospitality, dinner service, prayer and transitional housing.”
Address: 213 S. 11th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Needs: Men’s and women’s underwear, socks, jeans, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jackets and hoodies. Backpacks, blankets, deodorant, family-size shampoo, conditioner and shower gel and more.
About: “Helps individuals and families with resources; shelter, housing solutions, foster care, counseling, etc.”
Address: Locations in Mesa and Surprise.
Needs: Shampoo, disposable plates and cutlery, nonperishable food, cleaning supplies, games and more.
About: “Emergency shelter, meals and case management for individuals experiencing homelessness.”
Address: 345 S. California St., Chandler, AZ 85225.
Needs: Peanut butter, cereal, tuna, whole wheat pasta, pasta sauce, soup, canned fruit and vegetables, rice, beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, canned yams, gravy, broth, baking mixes, canned pumpkin and other nonperishable food items.
About: “Emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness.”
Address: 230 S. 12th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Needs: Seasonal clothing of all sizes, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, nonperishable food, baby formula, cooking supplies, household items, offices supplies, gift cards and more.
About: “Medical care and respite for individuals experiencing homelessness.”
Address: Multiple locations in Phoenix.
Needs: “Kindness kits” consisting of a gallon-size Ziploc bag that includes one bottle of water, one package of cough drops, lip balm, travel size sunscreen, one pair of new and unused socks, one package of travel size Kleenex tissues, one new, packaged toothbrush, toothpaste, a package of Band-Aids and two nonperishable prepackaged food items like jerky or granola bars. Notes of encouragement are also welcomed.
About: “Serves individuals and families impacted by domestic abuse.”
Address: 2055 W. Northern Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021.
Needs: Bedding, bathroom supplies, hygiene supplies, clothing, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, diapers, baby wipes, baby monitors, instant formula, office supplies and more.
About: “Emergency Shelter, case management, counseling, enrichment programs.”
Address: 7221 E. Belleview St., Scottsdale, AZ 85257.
Needs: Toys, baby items, housewares, dishes, pots and pans, small appliances, cleaning supplies, diapers and office supplies.
About: “Uses the healing powers of the arts to help abused and homeless children build resiliency and learn to trust and heal.”
Address: 352 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85012.
Needs: Art tools, paint supplies, paper products, gift cards and more.
About: “Helps individuals and families by providing furnishings and other essential household items to transform a house into a home.”
Needs: New or gently used household furnishings.
About: “Works to restore dignity to veterans while transforming homelessness, bridging services and creating hope.”
Needs: Clothes, shoes, underwear, socks, tooth brushes, travel-size toothpaste, travel-size deodorant, travel-size wet wipes, feminine hygiene products and travel-size liquid soap.
About: “Serves the needs of families going through homelessness.”
Address: 2302 W. Colter St., Phoenix, AZ 85015.
Needs: New kitchen items, nonperishable food and cleaning items.
About: “Eliminate barriers to graduation for homeless youth and create lasting solutions for a successful future through community support and increased awareness.”
Address: 9950 W. Van Buren St., Suite 114, Avondale, AZ 85323.
Needs: School supplies, undergarments, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, gift cards and more.
About: “Helps homeless families in crisis by providing transitional housing and supportive services.”
Address: 6858 E. Ursula Ave., Mesa, AZ 85212.
Needs: Grocery gift cards, shoes, sheets, towels, toiletries, sponges, laundry detergent, boxed cereal, canned goods, cleaning supplies, furniture, kitchenware and more.
About: “Serves individuals experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County and assist homeless population to self-sufficiency.”
Address: 204 S. 12th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Needs: Food, water bottles, small household appliances, household cleaning supplies, toiletries, laundry detergent, coffee, backpacks, day planners, undergarments, inflatable mattresses, dinette sets, linens, flatware, gift cards, bus passes and more.
About: “A place dedicated to seniors, age 55 and older, who … want a trusted partner, support, and access to resources while (they) work on returning to stable housing.”
Address: 1001 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Needs: Men’s 3-in-1 body wash, individually-wrapped forks, toilet bowl cleaner with bleach, pocket-size notebooks, sweatpants (large to 4X) and more.
About: “Provides emergency shelter and case management to those experiencing homelessness.”
Address: Multiple locations across Arizona.
Needs: Masks, gloves, gas and grocery gift cards, bus passes, diapers, bottled water, women’s hygiene items, personal hygiene items, fans, nonperishable food and more.
About: “Provides houses of hospitality and ongoing support to help pregnant and parenting women in need.”
Needs: Nonperishable food.
About: “Helps individuals and families through Native American culturally-appropriate behavioral health, affordable housing and community development services.”
Needs: Pillows, undergarments, socks, Depends undergarments, nonperishable food, hygiene products, linens and more.
About: “Helps people struggling with hunger, poverty and homelessness.”
Address: 424 W. Broadway Road, Mesa, AZ 85210.
Needs: Peanut butter, bottled beverages and pasta noodles.
About: “Programmatic housing services for human trafficking, foster care and addiction recovery.”
Address: 3210 Grand Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85017.
Needs: Nonperishable food, school supplies, baby supplies, first-aid supplies, hygiene supplies and cleaning supplies.
About: “A place of hope, healing, and new beginnings for men, women, and children in our community struggling with homelessness, addiction, and trauma.”
Needs: Nonperishable food, baby formula, diapers, wipes, full-size hygiene items, bottled water, cleaning supplies, first-aid supplies.
About: “Provides bicycles, support and knowledge for the homeless and low-income communities in Downtown Phoenix.”
Address: 740 W. Grant St, Phoenix, AZ 85016.
Needs: Bicycles and bike parts.
About: “Works to provide homeless families the support and services they need on their path towards regaining self-sufficiency.”
Needs: Furniture, clothing, automobiles, household goods and appliances.
About: “Equips families to address poverty, overcome homelessness and achieve self-sufficiency.”
Address: 125 E. University Dr., Mesa, AZ 85201.
Needs: Canned food, toiletries and cleaning products.
About: “Committed to transforming lives and creating a world free from domestic violence.”
Address: 2330 E. Fillmore St., Phoenix, AZ 85006.
Needs: New twin bedding (blankets, sheet sets, pillows, mattress pads, mattress protectors), new towels, new full-size hygiene items, diapers and wipes.
About: “Transforms lives through employment by helping individuals return to the workforce and become self-sufficient, productive members of society.”
Address: 1125 W. Jackson St., Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Needs: Clothing, accessories, hygiene products, tools and gift cards.
About: “Dedicated to feeding, clothing, housing and healing individuals and families in our community who have nowhere else to turn.”
Address: Multiple locations across Arizona.
Needs: Nonperishable food, water, clothing, shoes, toiletries, school supplies, diapers, toys and more.
About: Offering programs that address hunger relief, support for senior independence, homelessness prevention and intervention.
Address: 2146 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, AZ 85281.
Needs: Laundry pods, hand sanitizer, backpacks, notepads, pens, socks, granola bars, pencils, infant formula, new car seats, newborn items, lunch meal gift cards (Subway, McDonald’s, etc.) and more.
About: Restores hope and rebuilds lives by providing shelter, services and affordable housing for families, youth and individuals experiencing homelessness.
Address: 3333 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ 85008.
Needs: Hygiene products, cleaning supplies, food, infant care supplies, household supplies, furniture, mattresses, clothing, adult bikes, strollers and kids books.
Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation. Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.
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