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  • February 01, 2016 12:26 PM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    How did the SPDAT Academy come to be?

    As Arizona continues to establish and implement best practices that support Housing First principles, the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness is committed to the statewide training of our state’s homeless service providers and professionals. In our first year of offering off-conference training opportunities, we are proud to have provided over 76 hours of education and training to over 1,100 homeless service professionals in 2015 with significant and critical training in known best practices. AZCEH is honored to have partnered with ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, as well as utilize the generous participation of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Department of Health Services – Division of Behavioral Health Services, and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care.

    In order to continue our commitment towards building statewide training, AZCEH and its partners are investing in the training and education to build trainer/training capacity through the SPDAT Academy, which is a one-day intensive train-the-trainer course. This course will focus on the practical application of Arizona’s adopted statewide Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) for coordinated assessment for single adults, families (F-SPDAT), and youth (Y-SPDAT), and how each student can train others to properly and effectively administer the SPDAT in their local communities throughout Arizona’s three Continua of Care – Maricopa County, Pima County, and Balance of State.

    Building on the practical foundations of education, training, and work experience, students of the SPDAT Academy will ideally be case managers, housing directors, or supervisors with working knowledge of and experience with using the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT to assist with service connection and housing stability, especially those supported by and utilizing SPDAT scores to assist with housing-based case management core concepts and techniques.

    So, why should YOU apply?

    The information and data being collected through the SPDAT is helping drive funding decisions at all levels throughout Arizona – city, county, regional, and statewide. The significance of this data and housing-based case management & supportive housing techniques is critical to not only the successful end to homelessness for our clients, but also to the successful funding and support of the right tools, services, and programs. As AZCEH works to expand training opportunities that support these efforts, we are in need of local community leaders who understand, support, and encourage collective impact.

    SPDAT Academy applicants will be critical to the success of local communities in the implementation and further adoption of Housing First principles because you will be assisting in the proper training and support of the frontline assessment tool that is helping to prioritize service connection and supports that end homelessness. If you are interested in leading the policies, procedures, and tools that are shaping Arizona’s homeless service response system, join the conversation and lead the charge by applying to be a SPDAT Academy graduate trainer with the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness.

    At the completion of the SPDAT Academy, and upon being SPDAT Trainer-certified, Academy graduates will be required to conduct two (2) trainings per year as a contracted SPDAT Trainer with AZCEH, as well as participate in quarterly meetings regarding coordinated assessment at the local and statewide level to ensure inter-rater reliability. Through the SPDAT Academy, it is the goal of AZCEH to work collectively to support the development of all our service providers statewide; the staff and board of AZCEH is committed to the investment in creating statewide training opportunities ranging from monthly SPDAT trainings, to Housing-Based Case Management, motivational interviewing, trauma-informed care, permanent supportive housing, assertive engagement, mental health first aid, and other relevant opportunities that will support the entire provider community.


    In 2010, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) put forth a plan to reflect a national priority, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The focus of this plan was on utilizing best practices, such as Housing First, to help prevent and quickly end periods of homelessness for individuals struggling with housing stability. Also highlighted within the plan as a means to increasing access to stable and affordable housing are assessments and targeting mechanisms that prioritize based on acuity and overall assistance needed to transition out of one’s own homelessness.

    “Assessment and targeting mechanisms need to be used to distinguish between those who can resolve their homeless situation on their own or with mainstream supports, those who need targeted short-term assistance, and those who require long-term housing assistance. Factors include being extremely low income, paying more than 50 percent of income on rent, and precipitating events like domestic or sexual violence and illness. Available resources should also be targeted to the most vulnerable populations, including children and their families, unaccompanied youth, people with disabling conditions, and frail elders.” (Page 38, Increase Access to Stable and Affordable Housing: Objective 3, USICH, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, 2010)

    As a part of coordinated assessment in Arizona, which is helping policy makers and funders know how, where, and for whom to invest in various housing programs, the assessment and targeting mechanisms that have been adopted and are being used are the VI-SPDAT and the SPDAT; Vulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, created and maintained by OrgCode Consulting. In line with this federal strategic objective, and at the direction of Arizona’s three Continua of Care – Maricopa County managed by the Maricopa Association of Governments, Pima County managed by the Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness, and the Balance of State managed by the Arizona Department of Housing – the SPDAT is an evidence-informed approach to assessing an individual’s or family’s acuity, which refers to the severity of a presenting issue, and, for the purposes of the VI-SPDAT/SPDAT, is expressed as a number with higher numbers indicating more complex, co-occurring disorders which impact the individual’s or family’s housing stability. (For more about the difference between higher acuity and chronic homelessness, please read OrgCode’s blog post here.)

    Help AZCEH and its partners continue progressing towards an end to homelessness by serving as a leader in your local community by helping us with the successful and effective implementation of this critical assessment tool.

  • January 25, 2016 2:28 PM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    The time has come! This week is our annual Maricopa County StandDown, being held at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum from Thursday January 28th and Friday January 29th, with court services on Saturday January 30th. Throughout this post, we will be outlining things for not only the veterans receiving services, but the volunteers to know and keep in mind as well. With that, let’s get on with the show!


    Veterans receiving services should be advised that services begin at 8 am, are opening the doors around 6:30. Please keep in mind that these lines do get extremely long so the earlier you arrive the better. The first thing you will do when you get to the beginning of the line is registration. Be warned, this is a long task but those volunteering at registration work as hard and fast as possible so you are able to start receiving services. Once you have been successfully registered you are able to get all of the services you are in need of! On Thursday, there will only be registration for the courts, but they will be in session on Friday and Saturday. All other services will only be on Thursday and Friday. For the full list of services along with transportation pick up locations, please click here. Be advised, it is very chaotic inside of the coliseum but there will be volunteers to help you navigate throughout the event if you wish. There are no weapons allowed and all services are on a first-come-first-serve basis.


    First, we’ll start with parking. To enter the fairgrounds, go to 19th Avenue off Monte Vista Road (there is a light and is the main entrance to the Fairgrounds off 19th Avenue). Show the parking pass you’ve received and/or tell the guard your name and that you are volunteering with Maricopa County StandDown. Park in the lot north of the Coliseum. Volunteer entrance is up the ramp to the second floor of the Coliseum on the North side. As noted above in the veteran section, it is very hectic inside the coliseum so be advised of that. You may be asked to do a lot of walking, so please wear the proper shoes for that. Snacks and water will be provided to those who volunteer, but most importantly, remember to bring an open mind and a full heart. Your time and energy is greatly appreciated by all. If you'd like any more information on what volunteers have experienced, please click here.

    The Veterans Memorial Coliseum is located at 1826 W McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ.

  • January 18, 2016 8:59 AM | Erin Cochran (Administrator)

    Written by Nicky Stevens (Director of Housing at Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation and AZCEH Board Chair)

    Nicky Stevens, AZCEH Board Chair 2015-2017As the new Board Chair for the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, I am grateful to be a part of inspiring groups of people throughout Arizona who are working to end homelessness in every corner of our state through collaborative efforts that have been nationally recognized.

    However, on this day -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- in particular, and with the Point-In-Time counts coming up statewide next week, we must remain mindful that people of color continue to be overrepresented every year in our annual street and shelter counts. While African Americans represent just five percent of Arizona’s entire population, this specific demographic continues to make up close to 30% of the overall homeless population in our state. This is unacceptable. 

    "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"
    -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I know from my role as Director of Housing at Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation, discrimination still continues to play a role for many African Americans who are experiencing homelessness, especially in terms of access to housing within apartment complex communities. African Americans are less likely to be shown an apartment that is available, or be just flat out denied for various reasons, than their Caucasian counterparts. These issues make it more likely for them to experience homelessness and remain homeless longer than a person who is white. While poverty may play a factor in this overrepresentation, it still does not account for these high numbers. We must ask ourselves why and act on this knowledge.

    Whether it’s getting a job or leasing an apartment, societal prejudices have disparate impacts among African Americans. When employment cannot be obtained or housing stabilized because of a “black-sounding name,” the cycle of poverty and homelessness remains the same, not only in our state but across the country. We cannot avoid the conversation about race within our work and expect it to go away or be resolved with time. We must keep the conversation going and be mindful of the disparities that still affect people of color in our communities. The conversations are difficult, but unavoidable. They are also necessary as we continue the work of ending homelessness; let us not forget those who may not have a voice in our community or even a place at the table. Help me in being that voice through mindfulness.

    You can also see first-hand the diverse populations of those experiencing homelessness by volunteering for your local Point-In-Time Street Count coming up next week. Help us better understand how many individuals and families are experiencing homelessness in our community and be better equipped to meet their needs.  The PIT Count is a one-night street count to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness in Arizona during a given point-in-time. The count includes a brief survey to identify some characteristics of people experiencing homelessness in the community.  The statewide count in broken up into three geographic areas:

    o Maricopa County Point-in-Time Street & Shelter Count - January 26th, 2016 
    More information | Register to volunteer

    o Pima County Point-In-Time Street & Shelter Count - January 27th, 2016
    More information | Register to volunteer

    o Balance of State Point-in-Time Street & Shelter Count - Details forthcoming 
    Please watch the AZCEH website and social media for more info

  • January 13, 2016 2:53 PM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    Every time the word “fundraiser” is said, nonprofit professionals everywhere feel an unexplained shudder. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but we all know the feeling of dread we get when thinking about planning a fundraiser. Every year seems to be the same. A gala for one organization, a 5K for another. Isn’t there some way to spruce things up a bit? Make it a little less uniform? Yes, there is. We’re here to tell you different ways to up the ante on your fundraising skills.

    A classic fundraising tool is organizing a 5K walk/run, although effective it is overdone. But if it works, why give the run up completely? Fundraiser Help outlines a multitude of ways to spice up whatever the fundraiser may be, by simply making them themed. You can have a zombie 5K, where participants dress up as the undead and gore-ify themselves; a bed race, where competitors have to carry their beds with them while racing; a Jingle Bell Walk, a holiday themed walk; the Ninja Challenge, a 5K designed with various challenges throughout the course ranging anywhere from scaling walls, doing pull-ups, throwing ninja stars, running on wooden boards floating on the water, and more! This course has been working well for the Red Cross and others. A spin-off of that race is a Hunger Games themed 5K walk/run but includes challenges like archery, different obstacles in the course, and eating weird food items that are meant to gross out competitors.

    If you’re not one for the 5K walk/run, don’t worry, we have some ideas for you as well. Going off of the zombie theme, you can hold a zombie game night, costume contest, “prom”, or convention. If zombies aren’t your thing, a block party style fundraisers are a great idea, since passersby are more likely to stop by, and in turn not only donate but become more familiar with your organization. Block parties can include chili cook-offs, craft beer fairs, “taste of the town” (where some of the best food in town is all in one place, for everyone to try out! With this, remember to include local businesses!), Star Wars/Star Trek or Mardi Gras.

    Have an event you’d like to spice up? Hold a reverse raffle. When people attend your fundraiser, they all get a raffle ticket. The prize? Having to do something slightly embarrassing or just a gag gift. The idea is for people to sell their ticket back to your organization to get out of the embarrassing act. In doing so, you should make more money. To make this more unique, make a sliding scale. For example: the first 5 people to sell their ticket back pay $5, 5 people after that pay $10 and so on!

    Have you ever been to a fundraising event that was so fancy you just had to think about how they could even break even, much less raise enough money to have any substantial gain? As pointed out by The Fundraising Authority, if you hold a low-end event and charge as much as you would for a fancy-schmancy event you will make more money which is just as much fun. So, instead of having a 5 course meal at a high end restaurant, try holding a dinner with burritos at a Holiday Inn. When doing so, send your funders a letter that explains the fact that by holding a smaller event, the organization will in turn have more money for whatever you plan to do.

    Do you have a favorite fundraising technique? Let us know what yours is in the comments below!

  • January 06, 2016 12:43 PM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    Earlier this year, we were blessed enough to speak to a former volunteer of our very  own Maricopa County StandDown. Ceyshe’, now working with AmeriCorps Public Allies Arizona at Center for Neighborhood Leadership, was an intern with Valley of the Sun United Way when she was asked to volunteer for the Maricopa County StandDown in 2014, which she readily agreed to. At first, Ceyshe’ was a volunteer navigator, in case any of the volunteers had questions or she needed to help them find someone to assist. But, around 9 or 10 in the morning, they were short about 100 volunteers, and without hesitation Ceyshe’ jumped into action. The first man she helped stated that he wanted to leave right away, and seemed to have been experiencing a minor episode of PTSD. Feeling helpless, she ran after him and assured him all would be okay, and he finally agreed, and they went on their way searching for all of the assistance this man needed. Even though he was slipping in and out of episodes of PTSD, she was still able to help him and he seemed extremely thankful for that.

    On the second day, she met a man who she decided to call Enrique (for privacy purposes). Though he didn’t say much, he still had an incredible impact on her and how she saw people who are homeless. While waiting in line for the DMV for what seemed like hours, a man finally came up to them and asked what he was there for. While explaining that Enrique needed an ID card, the man looked down at the clear ID holder around his neck and stated that Enrique did not lose his ID, but it was in his holder the whole time. Realizing how silly it was that he didn’t realize this sooner, Enrique kind of just shrugged it off and started walking towards the station where people can get glasses. As Ceyshe’ told me about this, she couldn’t help but smile because of how silly she felt for not recognizing it earlier. Once they finally got the glasses, the man was so thankful for this new opportunity he stated, “now I can finally read the paper”. And, with that, he swiftly thanked her and left.

    After having an ample amount of time to reflect, Ceyshe’ still believes this is the best event she has ever volunteered for. When I asked her if she had any advice for future volunteers for this event, she simply said that they should expect a slow process. On her first day, she only worked with 2 veterans and felt like she wasn’t doing enough to help everyone. By the end of her second and final day volunteering, she was only able to help 5 men total, and felt extremely guilty about that. While we’d like to help out as many veterans as we possibly can, that’s just not possible since every veteran has their own specific needs. Even if you just help one veteran in your shift, you’re still making a difference.

    “We can help these people,” she said during the end of her interview, “they deserve dignity just as much as the next person.”

    To register for the 2016 Maricopa County StandDown please click here.
  • December 21, 2015 12:58 PM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    Every year December 21 marks the end of Fall and the longest day of the year. However, what most people fail to realize is it’s also National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Too many of our homeless friends and relatives fail to get recognized through public policy. Through storytelling, many more people are likely to listen to what hardships those who are homeless go through and puts a more personable aspect on their lives. In honor of remembering those who have lost their battle with homelessness, we implore everyone to share a special memory of someone you know who has now lost their battle with homelessness. These stories, in turn, will be used to influence public policy and will help us continue our fight towards ending homelessness. We will bring these stories right to the ears, and hearts, of those with the power to create this change. This will help our elected officials understand what the different needs are for those who are homeless. Sharing your story with our Advocacy Story Bank gives you the honor of giving a voice to those who are voiceless.

    Everybody’s stories matter. Will you share a friend’s story who is no longer able to share their own?

  • December 14, 2015 10:48 AM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    The issue of affordable, healthy food is of utmost importance for many people, not just those who suffer from homelessness. Even in our state, we live within the boundaries of food deserts. For those who don’t know, a food desert is defined by the USDA as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Today, we’re here to help with finding healthy, affordable food throughout Arizona. Ready to dive deep and take this trip with us?

    From Flagstaff to Yuma, there’s a slew of necessary resources available to help you afford what’s essential for a healthy, balanced diet. One prime example is the cookbook Good & Cheap by Leanne Brown. This cookbook is geared towards those with tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. In the book, Leanne states that "kitchen skill, not budget, is the key to great food. Good cooking alone can't solve hunger in America, but it can make life happier -- and that is worth every effort." In this book, you are able to learn how to make delicious and nutritious meals off of only $4 a day, while still getting over 100 easy recipes like caramelized bananas to Filipino chicken adoba. This book goes off of a “get one, give one” system, meaning when you buy one of these books, another goes to someone in need. If your non-profit organization is interested in providing a special edition of the book to clients or others with limited income, bulk purchases of 10 or more copies are available at deep discounts by contacting for more info.

    As you may know, authorized growers at approved farmer’s markets accept WIC, EBT/SNAP as well as AZFNMP. If you use your WIC check, you may use your Cash Value Vouchers at the approved farmer’s markets to buy fruits and vegetables. Additionally, 28 locations throughout Arizona are licensed to accept EBT/SNAP benefits. To find different farmer’s markets throughout Arizona, look no further than the Arizona Community Farmer’s Markets for specific dates and times you can locate a farmer’s market near you!

    Transportation is an undeniable problem when trying to find fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Luckily, Fresh Express by Discovery Triangle is here to help those within the “triangle” that ranges from Papago Park to Tempe to Phoenix by bringing those delicious fresh and affordable produce to you. This undeniably genius invention is a mobile market selling fresh produce at schools, senior centers and community gathering places. Fresh Express increases access, availability and affordability of fresh produce for Discovery Triangle residents as well as providing health and wellness resources to empower the community to make healthy choices.

    Additionally, if you or someone you know needs emergency food assistance (such as a food bank, pantry, soup kitchen, etc.) there are plenty of places for you to get the food you need. The Arizona Association of Food Banks has a vast selection of various places throughout Arizona to receive emergency food assistance and includes all of the required information needed in order to be helped.

    Always keep in mind when you go out to eat  to support your local businesses and restaurants. In doing so, you help money stay in the amazing communities you love. This keeps food at a lower cost, and you know the food you’re getting is coming from your trusted neighbors. Check out a complete list of local foods by using Good Food Finder AZ which is a Local First Arizona Foundation.

    What are some ways you use to cut food costs while still staying healthy? Give us some tips in the comments to include in the future!
  • December 09, 2015 9:40 AM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    Arizona native Eduardo Porter, writing in The New York Times about the Legislature’s vote to cut poor families’ access to welfare to a lifetime maximum of 12 months, got right to the bottom line:

    “This has nothing to do with the (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program’s objective of helping poor adults with children escape the stigma of welfare and get a job, still the best antipoverty tool there is,” he wrote. “Arizona simply needed the money for something else.”

    Governor Doug Ducey called the cuts necessary to protect taxpayers and K-12 classrooms, but the money that pays for this critically necessary program comes from a federal block grant.  How then, do the cuts protect taxpayers and K-12 classrooms, particularly given the $3.5 billion education-funding plan agreed to recently?

    The purpose of TANF is to help low-income adults enter the workforce. That’s why former President Bill Clinton signed the block grant law in 1997: to fulfill his promise to “end welfare as we know it.”

    TANF requires that states like Arizona, which is the first in the nation to cut back assistance to one year, ensure that individuals receiving the benefit are working, looking for a job or trying to go to school. Just to be eligible to receive TANF, a parent or nonparent head of household (foster parent, grandparent, etc.) can’t have assets of more than $2,000.

    Cutting TANF eligibility is projected to save $3 million of the $9.1 billion General Fund. For context, the special election on May 17th for Proposition 123 will cost three times that number.

    Forty-five days after that election, roughly 1,600 families — including more than 2,700 children — will be dropped from TANF assistance.

    There are no provisions, opportunities or options for helping those transitioning off TANF to find living-wage jobs.  Even now, 26 percent of those who are employed across Arizona are in low-wage jobs and can barely make ends meet as it is.

    In his New York Times article, Porter wrote that in “2012, one out of five households receiving food stamps reported no other source of income.  Millions more scrape by on modest assistance and low-paying jobs.”

    So, in a head-scratching effort to save money, the Arizona Legislature has put thousands of children and their parents at even greater risk of ending up homeless which, in turns, puts additional stress on the communities in which they live.

    Is there a solution? We believe there is: restore TANF benefits for 24 months and bolster the current jobs program housed at DES to improve, enhance and expand its effectiveness in helping solve the challenges that poverty presents.

    Or we can kick the can down the road and enjoy an ever-expanding homeless population.

    — This letter is signed by the Basic Needs Coalition, which gives voice to working families pursuing the American Dream. Their members include Arizona Child Care Association, Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Arizona Community Action Association, Arizona Family Health Partnership, Arizona Housing Alliance, Association of Arizona Food Banks, Children’s Action Alliance, Mental Health America of Arizona and Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition.

    Samuel Richard is executive director of the Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition.

    Read more:
  • December 08, 2015 10:39 AM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    What is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)?

    TANF is a Federal program that provides cash assistance to families with children who live below the Federal Poverty Line. While TANF is a Federal program, it was updated in 1996 to allow states to regulate their own rules for the program within certain guidelines. States may define the lifetime limits on benefits a family can receive.

    What is the TANF 12 month lifetime minute?

    During the 2015 Legislative Session, Arizona lowered their lifetime limit for TANF to ony 12 months. Prior to this past session Arizona's lifetime limit was 24 months. Federal law allows states to set their own lifetime limits as long as they do not exceed the Federal limit of 60 months. 38 states currently use the 60 month lifetime limit, while the other states range from 48 months all the way down to 21 months.

    When does the TANF 12 month lifetime limit go into effect?

    The TANF 12 month lifetime limit officially goes into effect on July 1st, 2016.

    When does the clock start on the 12 month lifetime limit?

    Months counted towards the 12 month lifetime limit technically starts on July 1st, 2015. This means that anyone who applies for benefits for the first time after July 1st 2015 will only be eligible for benefits for 12 months in their lifetime.

    How far back does Arizona count months towards the lifetime limit?

    Any assistance you received in Arizona starting on October 1st, 2002 will count towards your lifetime limit.

    If I have previously received TANF benefits, how does the 12 month lifetime limit impact me?

    If you have previously received benefits before July 1st, 2015 and have reapplied before that date, you may still be eligible for 24 months of benefits. Depending on the amount of benefits you used before July 1st, 2015 you could still potentially receive up to 24 months of benefits, but only until July 1st, 2016.

    If you apply after July 1st, 2015 you may still be able to receive more than 12 months of assistance depending on how many months of benefits you had previously received. Regardless of when you applied, if you have used 12 months or more as on July 1st, 2016 you will no longer be eligible for benefits in Arizona.

    After July 1st, 2016 any previous monthly benefits in Arizona will be counted towards your 12 months.

    What if I have already used 12 months (or more) of benefits in Arizona?

    If you have already used 12 months (or more) of countable benefits in Arizona in your lifetime, you can still apply for benefits now. If eligible, you could still receive benefits up to July 1st, 2016. After July 1st, 2016 you will no longer be eligible for benefits in Arizona due to the 12 month lifetime limit.

    My family received benefits when I was a child, does that time count towards my lifetime limit?

    No. Any benefits you received before the age of 18, even as a child in foster care/kinship care does not count towards your lifetime limit.

    I previously received TANF benefits in another state. Will those months of assistance be counted towards my 12 month limit?

    Regardless of when you apply, your benefits used in another state will not be used against you  in Arizona. You will still be eligible for 12 months lifetime assistance, as long as your total assistance from outside Arizona, combined with Arizona, does not exceed the 60 month Federal lifetime limit.

    **The above information was provided by Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence**

  • December 01, 2015 12:27 PM | Zak Ricci (Administrator)

    In honor of #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving and supporting others, we are paying special attention to Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness’ own Arizona Veteran StandDown Alliance and its year round assistance. #GivingTuesday is a 24-hour online day of giving. No matter how large or small your donation, it helps us continue our mission of  to provide leadership in statewide efforts to end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination with local communities and special initiatives including Arizona StandDown for homeless vets, Project H3: Home, Health, Hope for long term vulnerable homeless individuals and families, and Project H3: VETS for vulnerable homeless veterans. Help us raise our goal of $10,000 in 24 hours to support and raise awareness for our Arizona families, veterans, and individuals experiencing homelessness throughout the state. Remember, all in-kind donations (up to $400 for married couples and up to $200 for individuals) are tax-deductible. If you’re not yet sold about donating to your favorite nonprofit, once you learn more about our amazing Arizona Veteran StandDown Alliance, you’ll be racing to donate today!

    First, let’s start off with Stand Down’s history. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, San Diego held the very first Stand Down event in 1988.This event was modeled after a concept used during the Vietnam War, giving troops a safe retreat from combat which included secure base camp, access to take care of their personal hygiene, clean uniforms, warm meals, medical and dental care, mail, and a safe place to be with their friends. Since then, Pima County, Pinal County, Cochise County, Coconino County, Yavapai County, Mohave County and Graham County have joined AVSA’s efforts, along with Maricopa County, which holds the largest single Stand Down event in the country, serving close to 1,700 veterans.

    AVSA’s StandDown connects at-risk and homeless veterans to long-term service providers including or for example, food stamps, healthcare, employment, legal counsel and housing options. Other services provided can include food, shelter, showers, medical care, dental care, counseling, clothes, boots, veterinary care, and survival gear among a slew of other possible options. A huge accomplishment of AVSA’s is dropping Maricopa County’s chronic veteran homelessness down to a functional zero. Additionally, due to high rates of assault on women, women veterans have a separate entrance and services to help keep them safe and at ease.

    What’s it like to volunteer with the nation’s largest StandDown event? A few years ago a volunteer posted on her blog about her experiences at the Maricopa StandDown. “I had never participated in this event before and was blown away at the orientation at the massive amount of support that is available to these individuals,” she remembered. Later in the post, she remembers helping a Marine Corps veteran as well as a clearly emotional moment between herself and the man. “He shook my hand firmly, looked me in the eyes and said ‘Thank you for your help today ma’am I appreciate it more than you will ever know’ It took everything I had to not break down and cry right there. Before he walked away I assured him I was the one thankful for him, and his service, and wished him well before he faded into the crowd.”

    As the First Lady Michelle Obama pointed out in an article a few weeks ago, we need to be doing more to support homeless veterans. After they’ve done so much for this country, the last thing they should be doing is fighting for a place to live. “We’ve made historic investments to get housing vouchers into the hands of Veterans and treat them with the dignity they deserve,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said. Ending veteran homelessness is a country-wide issue that we all need to come together and start addressing. What are you doing to help veteran homelessness? Let us know in the comments!

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