‘Project Hope’ Helps Phoenix’ Homeless

“The man under the tree” was one of Phoenix’s more than 10,000 homeless. When Project HOPE workers found him, he had been homeless for 16 years. Dirty and ragged, he had no shoes–only black trash bags wrapped around his feet. Much of the time, he lived under a tree in a city park.

After befriending him, they spent a lengthy process working with government and Veterans’ agencies and finally discovered that, due to his serving in the Korean War, he was entitled to $707 a month in a non-service connected pension.

He was accepted into a Veteran’s homeless program, received counseling and living skills instruction and now, supported by his pension, lives in permanent housing.

He is one of the homeless men, women, and children, many of whom live in city parks, whose lives have been changed through The Salvation Army’s Project HOPE (Homeless Outreach to Place and Empower), a joint effort between the Army, City of Phoenix Parks, Recreation and Library Department and AmeriCorps VISTA. Together, they work to link homeless people–individuals and families –with community resources.

The staff of four (a coordinator and three VISTA volunteers, along with many community volunteers) covers 65 miles a day, rain or shine, driving from park to park to talk to the homeless. “We go in a van and take beverages to them,” said HOPE Program Coordinator Susan Berg. “We talk to them and determine their needs, and send them to agencies or shelters if they want.” Many are chronically homeless; 30 percent are veterans. Three or four families are placed into housing each month

“Resocialization is a big need,” said Berg. “Many have been homeless a long time. They trust us to help them walk through the process of paperwork, interviews and medical exams. There are many doctors and other professionals who don’t understand the homeless. After assisting them, the Army stays in touch for six months to a year with those living in shelters, to make sure they don’t regress.”

“If people finish our program, they are serious about not being homeless,” stated Sandi Gabel. “It’s all about learning to be responsible and having dignity.”

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