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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Social Sustainability and Homelessness in Phoenix: Sustainability also seeks to address issues of social inequality and economic instability to ensure a continually thriving planet, says Kena Fedorschak

Jun 30, 2014 10:32AM ● By Kena Fedorschak

The challenges of environmental sustainability are real, pressing and urgent; militating against environmental degradation and anthropocentric belief structures is necessary to ensure the prosperity of future generations. However, sustainability is a broad philosophy that is inclusive of more than just environmental issues, (i.e., sustainability also seeks to address issues of social inequality and economic instability to ensure a continually thriving planet).

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, persons identified as being homeless lack a “fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.” In Arizona, 27,877 individuals experienced homelessness at some point during the 2013 state fiscal year. Of these individuals, approximately 17,000 are located in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Further, an estimated 37 percent have physical or mental disabilities, 28 percent abuse drugs and/or alcohol and 38 percent can be classified as chronically homeless. Efforts aimed at reducing the number of individuals who are chronically homeless are vital, as they are most likely to die on the streets and utilize 50 percent of related resources, (e.g., shelter beds, hospital services, etc.).

Support, generosity and compassion can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who are homeless. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton exemplifies these character traits through his tireless efforts to end homelessness among Arizona veterans. Initiatives implemented by the mayor’s office have resulted in a significant decrease in the population of veterans who find themselves homeless in Phoenix, from 220 a couple of years ago to virtually zero today. Furthermore, USA Today highlighted Stanton’s work in a recent article.

We don’t have to be a mayor or politician to make a real difference within the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness. Leslie Todd is the executive director of the Real Gift Foundation, established by Valley native Conde Rogers in 2000 to work with local schools to provide food, clothing, school supplies, holiday assistance and health care services to children who are homeless and needy. According to Todd, “Providing children with basic necessities, such as school supplies and clean clothes, is a beautiful and humbling experience. You quickly realize that your actions have an enormous impact.”


Want to make a difference? Here are five actions we can take:

Volunteer at a shelter or foundation. Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) may be Arizona’s largest shelter, but dozens of shelters exist statewide. Check Google or consult a phonebook.

Donate to a food bank. Numerous food banks operate throughout the state. Just to name a few: St. Mary’s Food Bank, in Phoenix, United Food Bank, in Mesa, and the Community Food Bank, in Tucson. Donate food often and consider volunteering time, as well—these organizations will take all the extra support they can get.

Tutor children who are experiencing homelessness. Many organizations exist Valley and statewide to address the needs of youth who are homeless. Volunteering for StandUp for Kids in Phoenix, The Real Gift Foundation or the Valley of the Sun United Way could make a big difference in a young person’s life.

Employ someone who is homeless. Own a small business and want to make a difference? Stanton’s Hire, Educate, Recruit, Organize (HERO) program creates job fairs to connect veteran job seekers with employers. Taking part in events like these is a step toward ending chronic homelessness.

Reach out to local politicians. Arizona’s politicians are often preoccupied with other concerns. Remind them that the large population of people who are currently homeless still needs help and support.

Kena Fedorschak is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Arizona State University. He believes that sustainable management practices should achieve fiscal, social, and environmental goals. Visit to learn more.

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