Cooling Shelter Blog
On Friday September 15 we closed up our Summer cooling center.
On our final day we had a lady come in asking if we had shoes for a gentleman on the street. All we had onsite was a size 7 5. She took them and a bottle of water. She came back a few moments later with this young gentleman in tow. The shoes were too small and he could barely walk do to having huge blisters and only socks on his feet. We got him situated with a sack lunch and some Liquid IV for his dehydration. I came back to the Shelter to look for his size of show. Thankfully we did have 2 pair of size 11. Getting back to the cooking center he was so thankful for the shoes and the socks, shirt and underwear we had given him. After helping him bandage his feet and just talking with him he asked if we could help find a detox bed for him. Angela made a few calls and within the hour a lady from HOPE came to pick him up. What a fantastic way to end our cooling center endeavor!!
All in all I feel it was a great success. We had over 225 people come thru to enjoy a break from the elements of summers in Tucson. Being our first solo attempt to operate a cooling center there were a lot of unknowns. We were able to put together a great facility with a lot of services and needed supplies for the unhoused.
The saying 'it takes a village' couldn't be more true. We had a volunteer nurse who provided wound care each week, True Classic t-shirts out of LA provided shirts and underwear, we had socks and clothing donated. An Amazon fullfillment center had a shoe drive that we were able to provide shoes to many that came thru. Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist church prepared our sack lunches. Sister Jose's Woman's Center for feminine hygiene products. And of course a shout out to Ward 3 Councilman Dahl and his staff, for their hospitality and use of their community room. Our cooling center staff was a wealth of information that she was able to get people to various other services they needed. The City of Tucson Housing First Program was on hand 2 days a week to do VI-SPdat...enrollment for housing. I feel with the help from all these, we put together a well rounded program and stayed within our budget!
As St. Francis Shelter Community forges our new path in our services we provide this was a fantastic opportunity for us to show we are capable of providing hospitality to the unhoused in various capacities.
This winter, we look to partner again with TCIT (Tucson Community Impact Team) to provide blankets, hats, gloves and hot soup to those on the streets. Though at this time, we're still looking for usable space and proper volunteers to do an overnight winter shelter. At the very least I look forward to partnering with TCIT and their outreach team to help those unsheltered with at least the bare minimum to survive.
I couldn't be more pleased with the partnerships we've created. It's humbling and an honor to work with various organizations that help those most vulnerable in Tucson. It never fails that if we need something someone offers it up and vice versa. The network in place continues to grow as unfortunately so does the need.
Thank you for your continued support and know that you too have a hand in our success stories!
Director of Operations
As we head into our finally weeks of operation of our cooling center I'm filled with gratitude for our accomplishment. July saw 76 people come though seeking a break from the high heats we've had this year. Whether they came for a quick lunch and water or stayed to eat, nap, talk, enjoy games or drawing, get medical help for cuts or blisters and enjoy some air conditioning, we've assembled a wonderful facility to accommodate then.
The folks wanting and asking for assistance in getting desired help has been many. We've been able to assist most people in various capacities which is one of our goals. Those in need have been very receptive in receiving help. Each week we see different people seeking different services. Being able to help and accommodate them has been beyond rewarding.
I'd like to take this opportunity to give shout outs to our staff and volunteers who've helped made this possible. Ward 3 Councilman Dahl and his staff who've been beyond helpful and welcoming. Mt. Calvary Baptist Church for taking over making our sack lunches as well as providing everything for the final 4 weeks of operation. True Classic tees for providing fresh t-shirts and underwear to offer up. Cody's Friends for dog and cat food to offer to those with pets. And of course all of our donors and volunteers.
As the saying goes, it takes a village!
There's still opportunities for volunteering as well as more opportunities in the coming months. We're still trying to find a location for our winter shelter but at the very least we will be doing a soup patrol and getting volunteers lined up to help make and distribute soup will be needed. Please contact us if you're interested in helping.
As we close out our 3rd week of our cooling center, I'm continually grateful for the help we are providing those in need. Not only have we seen our first person want to get into rehab and our staff being helpful in facilitating this. We've also had several people sign up for housing help as well as offering respite from the brutal heat we've experienced the past few weeks.
Our Summer cooling center has given us the opportunity to help both men and women. Something unusual for St. Francis Shelter Community since we can only house men.
This week one of our first clients to come in to take a break from the heat finally returned after an abrupt "disappearance" last week. Sadly she was raped and forced to turn tricks for her "boyfriend" in a seedy hotel where she was kept against her will. She managed to escape and she returned to our center because of a safe haven provided by our staff. Our staff member has extensive knowledge of resources and was able to get this woman into a domestic abuse shelter and she is now away from this creep who feels he has the right to treat women like property. I couldn't be more proud of our cooling center and our staff we have in place to be able to help in these instances.
I'm learning that helping those in need isn't just for the drug addicted unhoused, but the element that comes in for respite is far more then just that element that many people assume we are helping.
Sexual assaults on unhoused women is a huge problem but this week we were able to assist one lady who was unfortunately sexually assaulted and abused repeatedly.
I couldn't be more proud of our endeavor for the cooling center and very happy we didn't give up on this after 2 facilities fell thru. Kudos to Ward 3 Councilman Dahl and his staff member CJ Boyd for offering use of their community center to us. Even though we haven't seen huge numbers of people seeking some respite from the heat, just helping these 2 ladies has already made this worthwhile!
Director of Operations
St. Francis Shelter Community
St. Francis Shelter Community Opens their Cooling Center
The Cooling Center: A Lifeline in the Summer Heat
A weekly installment Summer, 2023
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In a world that often overlooks the plight of those experiencing homelessness, it is essential to shed light on the stories of individuals who persevere against all odds. This blog post recounts the journey of a courageous female client who, amidst the challenges of homelessness and addiction, managed to find support and resilience in unexpected places.
A place of respite
As the summer sun beat down mercilessly, a cooling center opened its doors, providing respite for individuals seeking relief from the scorching temperatures. It was here that our story begins, as a woman, let's call her Sarah, sought solace from the sweltering heat. Sarah, like many others, was experiencing homelessness and found temporary refuge in this oasis of coolness.
Within the cooling center's walls, Sarah bravely shared her struggles with a compassionate staff member. As she spoke, her voice trembled with vulnerability as she revealed an open wound on her leg from a hit and run accident. It had been several months and had never healed. Recognizing the severity of the situation, the staff member encouraged Sarah to seek immediate medical attention.
Sarah's battle with opioid addiction made the decision to go to the hospital a daunting one. The grip of addiction clouded her judgment, and she hesitated to take the necessary steps to save her own life. Time slipped away as Sarah wrestled with conflicting emotions, torn between her need for pain relief and her fear of the unknown. Finally, Sarah mustered the strength to overcome her doubts and enter the hospital doors. However, what awaited her inside was far worse than she had imagined. Her leg had become septic, and her wound harbored maggots, evidence of the dire infection that had taken hold. The road to recovery seemed impossibly long and arduous.
Undeterred by the grim circumstances, Sarah fought through the excruciating pain and discomfort, determined to reclaim her life. Sarah’s friend, Hannah, kept the cooling center staff up to date on how Sarah was doing. Things seemed to be going well and Rachel planned to meet Hannah at the hospital to visit Sarah and bring her a clean set of clothes. Instead, Rachel received a call that Sarah was signing out AMA. As she rushed to get there before Sarah had a chance to leave she gathered her thoughts and made a plan. She would do for Sarah what had once been done for her.
A Heartbreaking Crossroads: A Staff Member's Efforts to Save a Life
Rachel, having traversed her own path of recovery, knew the painful grip addiction could have on a person's life. Fueled by her personal journey, Rachel shared her story with Sarah, hoping that her words would resonate and offer a glimmer of hope. Despite Rachel's genuine efforts to guide Sarah towards a different path, the woman remained steadfast in her decision to get high. The weight of this realization settled heavily on Rachel's heart, knowing the potential consequences that awaited Sarah on her chosen path. With no other options left to offer, Rachel made a difficult decision – she handed Sarah a naloxone kit, urging her to promise not to use alone.
In a heart-wrenching moment of truth, Rachel echoed the same words she had once heard during her own recovery journey: "Ok, this is your decision, it is your life. I want you to know, you are loved, you deserve a good life, and I hope to see you again. Call your son; this could be your last night alive."
Despite Rachel's plea, Sarah made a choice that shattered the hopes of those who cared for her. She went with a man she had met at the bus stop, opting to pursue the allure of temporary escape over the possibility of a better future. Sarah promised her Hannah and Rachel that she would go back and readmit herself after she had gotten high, “just one more time.” Rachel watched her leave with a heavy heart, grappling with a mix of sorrow, frustration, and the knowledge that she had done everything within her power to prevent this outcome. It was up to Sarah to make the decision that cold potentially save her life.
Overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness, the staff member, Rachel, went home after that fateful encounter and held Sarah close to her heart. Filled with a mixture of grief, worry, and unwavering hope, Rachel offered up prayers, desperately longing for Sarah to find the strength and support she needed to overcome her addiction.
Days later, a glimmer of light pierced through the darkness when Rachel received a message from Sarah. In a moment that brought tears of relief and joy, Sarah informed Rachel that she was safe and, astonishingly, sober. She recounted how she had gone back to the hospital through the emergency room that very night and was readmitted. Having been readmitted to the hospital, Sarah seized the opportunity to work closely with the medical team, determined to turn her life around. Through their guidance and support, she was connected with a local Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) provider, enabling her to receive the necessary medication to support her recovery journey. Sarah's commitment and resilience began to bear fruit.
As of today, Sarah finds herself in the comforting embrace of her mother and her young son, surrounded by love and support. While she awaits a bed in a treatment facility, her determination to reclaim her life remains unwavering. The journey to recovery is ongoing, but Sarah's newfound stability and access to the necessary resources offer her a lifeline toward long-term healing and a brighter future.
One of the Lucky Ones
Sarah's story, although filled with its share of hardships and near-tragedy, carries a glimmer of hope. In a world where many individuals battling addiction and homelessness face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Sarah's story serves as a reminder that, with the right support, recovery is possible. Her commitment to change, the compassionate intervention of medical professionals, and the network of support around her have propelled her on a path toward healing.
Sarah's journey also underscores the importance of ongoing support and accessible treatment options for those battling addiction. It is essential that we advocate for comprehensive addiction treatment services, affordable housing, and mental health resources, ensuring that individuals like Sarah have the tools they need to rebuild their lives and sustain their recovery.
Sarah's story is a testament to the power of resilience, the strength of the human spirit, and the impact of compassionate intervention. It serves as a call to action for communities, institutions, and society as a whole to come together and provide the support and resources necessary for individuals facing addiction and homelessness to find their way back to hope, healing, and a brighter future. Let us strive to ensure that Sarah's story becomes a more common narrative, where the fortunate outnumber the desperate, and everyone has the chance to embark on a journey of redemption and recovery.