Photo composite by Garret Van Wie’22 | A homeless man sitting in a clean, white room.
By Garret Van Wie’22
37% of of the 25,800 Maricopa County’s citizens experiencing homelessness are families and the rates of families going through homelessness have only been on the rise in recent years. Each year around December, Brophy puts on a blanket drive for the Phoenix Rescue Mission Charity which helps homeless individuals rise out of whatever conditions may have caused them to lose their homes and turn to the streets/shelters.
But with all the chaos and activity occurring during the holiday season, sometimes the reality of what this blanket drive does is lost.
With almost 30% of the homeless population consisting of teens or children, and a high rate of mental illness among the homeless, it can be virtually impossible to rise out of poverty for those who aren’t able, due to age or mental health. According to Craig Tribken of Central Arizona Shelter Services, homelessness is often a result of mental and physical health issues, or a lack of accessible housing.
So many of the homeless deal with extreme temperatures in Phoenix, so it can be easy to forget that in winter, temperatures can be just as dangerous. Arizona Central reported last winter that Phoenix, and Arizona in general could see its coldest temperatures that winter. The Phoenix area was even under freeze watch as temperatures dipped 30 and below.
In another Arizona Central article, a reporter interviewed 100 people experiencing homelessness in an effort to develop a deeper understanding of both the issue and who it affects. She found that major problems individuals going through homelessness deal with are a lack of beds, safety, and staff found in shelters.
The founder of another organization, Blankets for the Homeless, Mariah Smith, describes her first experience with homelessness when she saw a man who she saw hungry and cold. When Smith was young she too was homeless, abandoned by her parents, and she was later adopted.
She explains the value of a blanket simply, “A blanket may not seem like much, but to someone who is hungry and starving, it is the difference between being hungry and cold…or not. I want them to know that someone truly cares.”