Hospitality and Creativity
Hospitality House protects Tucson’s homeless from extreme weather
61-year-old facility impacts the lives of individuals and families.
by Rachel Southard –
Hospitality House serves as a men’s and women’s shelter and an emergency shelter for families.
Originally built 61 years ago as a 33-bed men’s homeless shelter, Tucson, Ariz.’s Hospitality House underwent an amazing transformation in the mid-’80s as the area’s homeless population began to evolve and change. “The community became concerned with the growing number of homeless women and children in the area,” said program director Jerry Brillo. “This is when we knew we had to expand our focus.”
Striving to touch the lives of both individuals and families has not only transformed the facility into a single men’s and women’s shelter, but also an emergency shelter for families. With 91 beds available, the Hospitality House has become creative with its use of space, and has successfully managed to make a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for its temporary residents while also serving as an information center for those facing a time of crisis in the community.
With its primary focus on the health of its clients, the Hospitality House has partnered with local clinics and agencies to aid in ensuring its clients are well cared for. Once the health of all individuals is known, case managers work closely with individuals and families to establish attainable goals, aid in job development and any other necessary steps to achieving stability.
Though many of its clients desire to achieve a state of normalcy, Hospitality House recognizes that many chronically homeless individuals are most comfortable with this chosen lifestyle. “When most think of Arizona, they think of a dry and extremely hot climate,” said Diane Marsh, program coordinator. “What many may not know is how truly cold Tucson does become in the winter months, and that the weather does have a negative impact on many individuals in the area.”
Again, with a focus on the health and safety of its clients, the Hospitality House transforms into the staging area for “Operation Deep Freeze” (a collaboration between The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Tucson Police, El Rio Clinic, Interfaith Coalition and various local churches) from November 1-March 31 each year. The goal of Operation Deep Freeze is to remove homeless individuals from the streets and frigid temperatures (35 degrees Fahrenheit and below) and place them in shelters overnight. With the Hospitality House serving as a staging area, up to 300 homeless individuals are bused to 35 religious congregations and various corps committed to sheltering and feeding 20 beneficiaries each night. “We are extremely happy with the way our strong partnerships have been able to touch the lives of homeless individuals in a positive manner,” said Marsh. “Everyone deserves to be safe and comfortable in their surroundings.”
Operating on the same premise, The Salvation Army also manages “Operation Chill Out,” a program to protect the area’s homeless population from Tucson’s scorching summer temperatures. Currently collecting items such as water, sunscreen and hats at five stations throughout the area, The Salvation Army hopes to expand its outreach by opening day shelters to provide a place for the area’s homeless to cool off and escape the heat. “We hope to continue to expand our outreach to the homeless population,” said Brillo. “We want the area’s homeless individuals to know we will never give up on them, and we will always be there to help.”