2021 Code:Red Summer Heat Relief Effort

2021 Code:Red Heat Relief Effort Launches May 10

Phoenix Rescue Mission to partner with public to prevent heat-related and COVID-related deaths and illnesses among the homeless and at-risk

PHOENIX (April 30, 2021) – Phoenix Rescue Mission is launching its 9th annual, city-wide Code:Red Summer Heat Relief Campaign to ensure the Valley’s homeless population and at-risk individuals do not fall victim to the hot summer months ahead.

Beginning May 10, through August 31, the large-scale heat relief initiative and water drive is raising the level of need for this year’s campaign, due to the continuing risks of COVID-19. In addition to water and other heat relief items, the Mission is asking the public to help support the campaign with monetary donations and non-perishable food drives. Monetary donations, which will be essential to meet the increased need during the difficult months ahead, will be matched up to $150,000 – made possible by a grant from several friends of the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

The Mission also launched a system for individuals and companies to easily set up digital fundraising drives to make socially distanced collections even simpler.

“As we approach the 10th anniversary of Code:Red, the need for public support could never be higher,” Phoenix Rescue Mission CEO Ken Brissa said. “In addition to battling triple-digit temperatures, the number of homeless men and women in our community has continued to climb while the pandemic limits access to many resources and services.”

Several municipalities, including Goodyear, Peoria, Avondale, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Glendale, have joined the effort and will work with the Mission’s Street Outreach staff as they comb Valley streets in a small fleet of Hope Coach vehicles providing water, toiletries, and case management services to those in need. The Mission’s outreach teams will be following the CDC’s COVID-19 safety protocols while providing personalized care that removes the barriers that keep people stuck in a cycle of homelessness.

“Anyone can help us save lives this summer, no matter if you’re an individual who wants to make a small donation online, a small business owner who’d like to start a food or water drive, or if you just want to drop off a case of water,” Brissa said. “It’s important to note that we’re not just handing out water and making people feel better. We’re building relationships with those in need and helping to remove the barriers to get them off the streets for good.”

More information about the Code:Red initiative can be found here. Food, water, and all other heat-relief donations can be dropped off at the Mission’s Donation Warehouse, located at 3440 W. Lewis Ave., Building A, Suite G, in Phoenix.  The Mission is also in need of volunteers to help distribute vital, nutritious food to families in need at its Hope for Hunger Food Bank in Glendale.

For more information on what to donate or to start a Code:Red drive, please contact Catie Hammann at  gikhelp@phxmission.org or 602-346-3347.

 

Phoenix Rescue Mission:

Phoenix Rescue Mission is a leading provider of Christ-centered, life-transforming solutions to persons facing hunger, homelessness, addiction, and trauma. The nonprofit Mission, which has been operating since 1952, is asking the public for support of its many programs designed to transform lives, including Hope for Hunger Food Bank, Hope Coach Street Outreach, Temporary Shelter Programs, Men’s Addiction Recovery Programs, and the Changing Lives Center for Women and Children.

 

Media Contacts:

Ryan Brown, Phoenix Rescue Mission, office: (602) 346-3352; cell: (302) 359-6780, rbrown@phxmission.org

Josh Skalniak, Lambert & Co., cell: (480) 352-2050 jskalniak@lambert.com

Surviving Homelessness in the Phoenix Summer [Robert’s story]

If it seems like the summers are getting hotter in the Valley of the Sun, you’re not imagining things.

In 2020, not only did we experience the most blistering July we’ve ever seen, August’s average high temperature of 110.7 degrees broke the record for the hottest month. Combined, they made for the hottest summer ever recorded – since records began in 1896!

As temperatures start to climb this month, that’s a deadly forecast for the men, women, and children caught on the street. Add that to a lingering pandemic that has brought thousands of families to the brink of homelessness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

This is a Code:Red!

If anyone knows how dangerous summers can be while living on the streets, it’s Robert.

In 2019, his parole officer recommended that, in order to overcome his addiction, he enroll in recovery at Phoenix Rescue Mission. Even though Robert readily agreed, he was already making other plans. He blew off his intake appointment and spent the next couple months on the streets trying to stay out of sight. But he didn’t take into account the fact that it was summer.

The decision to run almost cost him his life.

“It was rough,” Robert remembers. “I would bounce between Starbucks and fast-food restaurants to stay cool. But then I collapsed one day in front of the library on 46th Street and Thomas. When I opened my eyes, there were paramedics standing over me. They said I was very dehydrated. They told me I was lucky I woke up.”

That near-death experience was a wake-up call for Robert. He knew that if he reconnected with his parole officer it would mean jail, possibly even prison time, but it was far better than the alternative.

“It was so bad that I turned myself in. I told them I would accept whatever conviction they gave me. But instead of locking me up, they still allowed me to go to Phoenix Rescue Mission!”

Robert narrowly escaped death from severe dehydration in the summer of 2019. More than 280 others experiencing homelessness in the Valley weren’t so fortunate last summer.

Your support saved Robert’s life. We gladly welcomed him out of the deadly heat, connected him with recovery classes, counseling, and case management tools that would help break the hold addiction had on his life and gave him the tools he needed to find transformation.

Today Robert is better than safe. He’s sober, he’s a graduate of our Men’s Recovery Program, and is currently enrolled in tech school working on his A+ technical certification with plans to become an IT professional.

It’s only by God’s grace and your support that Robert survived the summer of 2019 – 283 others didn’t.

Last year, during the hottest summer ever recorded, that number soared to a tragic 494 lives lost – 59% of them homeless – an increase of 33% over 2019.

It’s a combination of record-breaking temperatures and closed businesses during a pandemic that gave those living on the streets fewer options for refuge.

When just 15 minutes in our intense summer sun can cause heatstroke, hundreds stranded on the streets don’t have a chance.

We must do better in 2021.

With temperatures rising, more lives are on the line. We can change it. Help put a bottle of water and a message of hope in someone’s hand when it means the most.

A graduate of our Recovery Program and currently attending tech school to become an IT professional, Robert’s future is promising, thanks to your support.
Code:Red

Summer is Here – What Can I Do? [street outreach tips]

It’s 110 degrees outside and there he is on the corner, cardboard sign in hand, looking to you for help. You know handing him cash is not the answer and food isn’t a solution. It would be easy to drive on by, but your heart won’t let you abandon this homeless man to the heat.

What can you do?

It’s a question that weighs heavy on many of our hearts during the summer – our street outreach team is here to help!

Here are four simple tips that can make a real impact and could transform the life of someone on the street:

  1. Be Prepared. It’s hot and you are going to run into someone in need of help. Be ready! Keep a Summer Hope Tote or two in your car this summer ready to give away. Build yours at phxmission.org/hopetote.
  2. Talk with them. Say hello. Show them your heart. Asking if they have a place to stay the night or a plan for the future can be a great way engage in a quick conversation while at a stop light.
  3. Point them to PRM. This is the opportunity for transformation. Guide them toward a solution by handing out one of the enclosed Rescue Referrals or print your own at phxmission.org/referral. Tell them you support the Mission, and it could be a place their needs can be met.
  4. Pray. This is most important – only God can change hearts! Don’t forget to pray for those on the streets and for those battling addiction. Pray that their physical and emotional needs are met, and their spiritual hunger is satisfied. And please pray for the staff and volunteers at the Mission as we serve many who come to our door.

Last summer, record-breaking heat took the lives of 494 men and women in Arizona. As a community, we need to step up and reach out to those who may not know how deadly our summer can be.

Together, we can make a difference by connecting people in harm’s way with the resources that keep them safe and transform lives!

Code:Red

Meet the Staff: Nathan Smith, Our CPO

Ever wonder what fuels the fire in the hearts of our staff for the homeless and hurting? Starting this month, we’ll be introducing you to the outstanding men and women who work tirelessly to see lives transformed – to get a peek into what brought them to the Mission and what keeps them going.

Ask anyone on campus and they’ll tell you: Nathan Smith has a huge heart for the homeless. But it didn’t start out that way.

“I wasn’t necessarily callous to helping people with great needs,” Nathan remembers. “I just never paid any attention to that as a kid.” It wasn’t until his first missions trip to India that his life, and his heart, changed forever. Nathan not only found his calling while he was in India, he found his wife – who was serving in the medical clinics of the same missions’ field.

“Years later, I was having trouble getting out to India to continue my mission work because I was building a family here. That’s when I was challenged by my grandmother-in-law to do more work locally. I started working with the homeless, which blossomed into a church ministry. From there, I met Jay Cory (former President and CEO of Phoenix Rescue Mission) who got me started at an entry-level position at the Mission.”

At the Mission, Nathan flourished. In just six short years, he’s risen through the ranks from Project Coordinator to Project Manager to Director of Community Engagement. During that time, he was instrumental in the expansion of the Mission’s reach into regions like Glendale, where he and his team saved the city’s largest food bank from closing for good.

Nathan’s team reopened Hope For Hunger Food Bank and increased the output of the previous ownership by more than 50% – serving more than 160 families per day under his watch. He was also a key player in the formation of Glendale Works, an integrated workforce development program aimed at reducing homelessness in Glendale by providing homeless individuals day-work cleaning city property.

In May, he accepted the position of Chief Program Officer!

God has put me in these different spots to expose me to what it means to be a leader, what it means to work with people who are really, really down and out and it’s prepared me to take that on at a higher administrative level. I couldn’t be more thankful for the path He put me on to get here.

Congratulations on your promotion, Nathan. We can’t wait to see how God uses you next!

What didn’t kill Sergio pushes him to save others

“It was excruciatingly hot. I always did what I could to stay out of the sun.”

Sergio knows how dangerous it is to be caught on our sweltering summer streets. For five long years, he did what he could to keep cool, to keep hydrated – to stay alive.

“I would stay in abandoned trailers and sometimes hide out in the library. I’d only come out once the sun went down to search for businesses with spigots to get water.”

Thanks to God’s mercy and Sergio’s resourcefulness, he survived. But others haven’t been so fortunate. Last year, the heat claimed the lives of 197 individuals in Maricopa County* – the highest ever recorded – and this year is shaping up to be even more deadly.

Thankfully, the way out you provided Sergio didn’t just save his life. Today he’s back out on the streets with Code:Red and the Hope Coach on a new mission – to save others before it’s too late.

Sergio’s story begins in childhood. He’s been struggling with addiction ever since he was eight years old.

“I’ve been to numerous programs, but never experienced more than 3 months of sobriety. Just constantly relapsing and getting worse every time.”

His family tried their best to help, but found themselves at a loss.

“They didn’t know what to do with me. My brothers and sisters are all successful hard workers. Then you got me coming around with two kids, in the middle of a separation, drunk and addicted…”

Eventually, his family kicked him out and Sergio became homeless.

“I started smoking meth on a daily basis. When that happened, things got really crazy. I was hearing voices, thinking crazy stuff, having terrible episodes and believing they were true. I was hungry and digging out of dumpsters every day. The meth messed my mind up so bad, I thought people were making fun of me, that they were talking about me, that they were inside my head, listening to everything I was thinking.”

Thankfully, his family recommended he give Phoenix Rescue Mission a try.

“After five years, I was done. I could see I wasn’t able to stop my drinking and drug use on my own. I wanted out of the heat, away from the hunger and the shame. I was ready to walk though those gates.”

What he found inside changed everything.

“I’ve tried recovery so many times. But this time it’s different. Here I’m around brothers who really want to change, leaders who really care about me, and about everyone else’s well-being. If something was missed, it’s quickly dealt with. That’s different. I’m used to a lot of shadiness, manipulation, to the point where people are using drugs in the program and getting away with it. There’s none of that here.”

When asked what makes the Mission’s recovery program different from his attempts at recovery in the past, there’s no hesitation.

The main difference was where they pointed me to – they pointed me to Christ. They taught me to open up the Bible. Now, if I have a craving or a crazy thought, I give it to God. It’s encouraging seeing other guys doing the same thing and watching the Holy Spirit move them into success.”

Today, Sergio is a proud graduate of our recovery program. He’s sober, he’s completed our Servant Leadership Training and even our rigorous Ministry Training programs.

“My family came to the graduation and they’re all super proud of me, especially my mom and dad. I could see it in their faces. It’s always been a struggle between me and my parents. I thank God every day that they can finally see me going in the right direction.”

Now that he’s sober and safely off the streets, Sergio is making his return as the newest member of our Street Outreach team. Monday through Friday, you can find him out on the Hope Coach giving others a chance to find the help and hope he’s found at Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“I love it! We’re connecting with people out there, giving them water, hygiene supplies and right now, because of the coronavirus situation, we’re handing out sack lunches to anyone who is hungry. It’s building that relationship with these people who are struggling, and meeting them where they are: in parks, outside stores, and in washes all throughout the city.”

And not a moment too soon – things are already heating up.

April 26th through May 1st represented the second-longest streak of consecutive triple-digit days in April in Phoenix since 1896, and marks only the third time in recorded history we’ve experienced five or more 100-degree days in April. Summer is still four weeks away, but the deadly triple digits are already here.

But with the prayers and support of friends like you, despite the heat, despite the virus, hope is moving forward – for Sergio and for hundreds more just like him this summer.

“It’s a blessing. It’s definitely not something I would have ever envisioned for myself. I was just looking for sobriety, but recovery is so much more than that, it’s growing in seeking the Lord, depending on Him and being a vessel for Jesus Christ.”

*“Heat-Associated Deaths in Maricopa County, AZ Final Report for 2019.” Heat Reports | Maricopa County, AZ, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 2019, www.maricopa.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/4959