Catholic Charities Community Services Outreach Case Worker Chris Kinkade knows all too well that anyone can become homeless. Having experienced it himself at one point, this U.S. Navy veteran has great compassion for those with no place to call home.
“Everybody’s tragedy is like a switch,” he said. “And most people don’t realize their just one flick away from whatever it is to being in that exact same situation.”
Treating Individuals with Dignity
Chris, along with several other outreach workers throughout Northern Arizona focus much of their efforts on building relationships. As a veteran himself, Chris finds that building rapport, particularly with unsheltered veterans, comes easily once you show them respect.
During a recent outing, Chris ran across a very young couple, Ricky and Claudia, who had recently become homeless. Ricky and his mother, nearby in their truck watching over their few belongings, traveled around to various locations panhandling to find money for gas and food. As Chris delivered water and some supplies, she cried. “I just want to find a place,” she said.
In situations like this, outreach workers can truly save lives. Particularly in the Mohave desert, temperatures become deadly in the summer or winter, depending on the area. “They’ve found a dead body out here, in fact a few times. I always hope I’m not going to find anyone like that. It’s scary,” Chris said. Conversely, in areas like Flagstaff, the winter can become deadly when freezing temperatures and frostbite are major winter threats.
Case Managers Help Them Find Permanent Housing and Income
Outreach workers provide water, food, and other supplies with each visit to help introduce themselves and tend to the basic needs first. They can even provide transportation or make arrangements for those who want help to go to the Legacy Foundation Christine Stamper Center for Hope & Help in Bullhead City, AZ. The individual and family shelter can not only provide a night’s rest in a safe environment, but access to case managers who can help them navigate through the process of getting employment or another source of income, temporary housing, food, clothing, hygiene products, and more. “We can connect them with resources, a case manager, and with some work, they’re on their way to getting housed,” said Chris.
As an individual or family works toward self-sufficiency, they can receive help with rental payments they may not be able to make for a month or two, or transportation to medical appointments. The case managers and outreach workers truly become lifelines for many throughout Northern Arizona.
That same day, Chris ran across Russell and Tina near a strip mall, who were trying to find a place to rest. With their few belongings in a cart and only the clothes on their back, Tina wept as she explained she’s pregnant and has no other clothes or food and is trying to find transportation back to where her family lives in Florida. Chris gave her a big hug, helped her find resources for clothing and promised to look for resources for transportation for her on his next visit just a few days later. “It’s about treating them as human beings and letting them know you understand the challenges,” he said.
By making these rounds on a regular basis, the unsheltered learn to watch for Catholic Charities workers to help answer questions, provide life-saving supplies, or prepare to take the necessary steps toward self-sufficiency by entering the shelter or another facility.
If you would like to give a gift or donate supplies such as bottled water, packaged snacks, hygiene items, or other supplies, or, if you’d like to volunteer, please visit CatholicCharitiesAZ.org.
Jean Christofferson is Senior Director of Marketing for Catholic Charities. She has a master’s degree in business leadership and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She lives in Phoenix with her husband, two boys, four dogs and two cat.