Temporary grace and an extension of Arizona’s eviction moratorium to Oct. 31 means we have more time to do our literal “home” work, but there’s no free pass or less pressure on people experiencing a COVID-19 crisis and struggling to pay rent. There’s money owed, a deadline to meet and thousands of families in homes on borrowed time.
Oct. 31 will be here before we know it. On that day, many of us will rise, work, move about our lives and when the sun sets, lay our heads down to rest in the comfort of our homes.
But that same day other families in our community will face the possibility of a knock on their door to enforce an eviction. In the short time they’re given, they’ll choose which belongings fit in their cars (if they have one) and which they’ll leave behind.
They’ll scramble to call every shelter possible only to find waitlists weeks long. And when the sun sets, they’ll look for a place to park where their family can sleep and hopefully not be ticketed or towed.
This unimaginable scenario is ahead for thousands of Arizonans. Combine this sudden and drastic increase in need with the pre-existing epidemic of homelessness across the state, and the new front line of the COVID-19 crisis will be on our Valley streets.
For families whose lives become unhinged overnight, how do they begin to rebuild? Who is on the front line --- first to stop their fall and then to help lift them up again?
Nonprofit organizations like St. Vincent de Paul have been steadily supporting vulnerable families and people experiencing homelessness throughout the pandemic.
Through modified services we continue serving more than 4,000 to-go meals out of our dining rooms every day, delivering food boxes to doorsteps, offering telemedicine out of our clinic for the uninsured, giving out clean clothing and hygiene items to those experiencing homelessness, and preventing homelessness through rent and utility assistance.
None of this would be possible without the generosity of a caring community that gives much-needed donations along with the collaboration of local government to provide funding and resources.
But we foresee an impossible situation ahead --- one where we don’t have a sufficient safety net even with recent extensions and funding to help all the families already turning to us for assistance. The moratorium’s end is inevitable and will cause more homelessness, putting lives at stake and placing families on a long-term trajectory and path of need.
The collective effort of our community to help one another is the shining light in these dark times. As community-based nonprofits and government partners answer the call for help from the increasing number of families facing homelessness, we hope this collective generosity continues.
The front line of need isn’t manned by service workers alone. This front line belongs to all of us, and the best way to address the staggering homelessness that’s coming is for each of us to help within our power — whether that’s supporting a meal or helping a family with their rent through a trusted nonprofit program. In doing so, we have the opportunity to become the very best versions of ourselves for one another — to show compassion, live out kindness, share our abundance, and offer a bit of hope and humanity to our neighbors who need our help now before the sun sets.
Editor's note: Shannon Clancy is associate executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix, which continues to feed, clothe, house and heal Arizonans in need.