From the Social Justice Action Team at The Church of the Palms UCC:
One of the positive things about being hunkered down in our homes during the COVID19 pandemic is that it provides opportunities to do something special for those who have it so much worse than we do. Take, for example, our growing homeless population. The Palms provides several programs for this growing population in Phoenix and communities in the Northwest Valley.
HART Pantry: Helping At Risk Teens. The HART Pantry provides weekend food bags to teens who do not have enough food when they are not in school. But the HART Pantry is so much more. It is a community outreach program which began in 2011 as a mission of faith-based organizations in Peoria. The HART Pantry also partners with Eve’s Place, a 501(c)(3) charity that helps victims of domestic abuse and teen violence in the West Valley. The HART Pantry also enjoys the support of individual community members and corporate partners. Church of the Palms members serve on the Board of Directors for HART Pantry and have played a significant role in the annual backpack and graduation gift card programs as well as with monthly food donations. Sadly, the number of teens needing support from the HART Pantry continues to grow, with consideration now being given to expand and serve those at the middle school level.
Children First Academy: Church of the Palms, through the Board of Mission and Outreach, has made contributions of books, electronic devices, and water to Children First Academy for several years. This academy is a charter school near downtown Phoenix which serves homeless elementary age school children in the region.
I-HELP: Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program. I-HELP a program of Lutheran Social Services, is designed to help the growing numbers of working people who have lost access to affordable housing. The 90-day program helps the men and women in the program develop a life plan that restores them to permanent housing. They are assisted by a full-time case worker from LSS, to locate the resources needed and keep them on task for the 90 days or less. As a supporting church, The Palms provides housing, food, and laundry every Monday and Friday night to as many as 12 women and men in the program. The program is for adults over the age of 18, not for families with children. Five other churches in the Surprise, El Mirage and Sun City communities are also hosting churches The COTP Service Committee purchased sheets and prepared them to fit the sleeping mats and have provided additional support supplies for program participants. The program runs with volunteers: the costs of a host church includes food, toiletries, laundry soap and cash gifts designated for I-HELP. Volunteers also serve as overnight monitors, preparing meals, doing laundry, and providing transportation to and from the day programs. There is also additional cost to the Church for utilities and bus operations.
Shower Trailer Program: One of the most requested needs of the homeless population is the opportunity to take a shower. For general health and to be prepared for employment, job interviews, and/or social service agency interviews, a shower provides increased self-esteem and opportunity for success. With this in mind, the COTP Board of Mission and Outreach has explored the possibility of purchasing a shower trailer and recruiting individuals to carry out this ministry. The shower trailer operation would initially serve participants in the I-HELP program but would eventually serve nearby communities with a homeless population, including those in homeless camps near and around riverbeds and under bridges. Volunteers will transport the trailer to various locations on a predetermined schedule and conduct necessary maintenance and upkeep. The City of Surprise has been very supportive of this ministry.
FAITH Program: Financial Assistance Into Transitional Housing. This proposed program, which is still under construction and yet to be reviewed by the church council, would partner with Lutheran Social Services and include a source of funds to qualifying graduates of the Northwest I-HELP Program. I-HELP graduates need between $3,500 – $4,500 to cover first and last month’s rent, damage deposit, and utility deposits. This program would explore ways we could assist them with this need. This proposed FAITH program would be managed by church leadership. Our church council will need to review it all and vote on it before anything happens. Individuals wishing to support any of these programs through a donation of time, talent, and/or treasure are encouraged to contact one of the following: chair of the Board of Mission and Outreach (Suzanne Boisclair), chair of the I-HELP Team (Max Klinkenborg), or chair of the Social Justice Action Team (John Durbin).