Changing the Future of Homelessness – Brick by Brick | Jason’s Story

It’s 7 a.m. when our Street Outreach van pulls up outside a church on East Osborn Road. Despite the early morning cold, a group of five is already there ready and waiting for a chance to make a difference.

Each one is experiencing homelessness, but they’ve heard word on the street that there are meals to be had and money to be made doing a job that might directly benefit them someday.

Jason boards the van, joking and laughing, knowing he’s not only in for an honest day’s work, but something more. He’s heard that what he’s building today has the potential to change the state of homelessness in Arizona – one brick at a time.

It’s called Scottsdale Works and it’s the newest program at Phoenix Rescue Mission. Like Glendale Works, it gives men and women on the streets the opportunity to earn a fair wage for an honest day’s labor while connecting them to all the life-changing resources Phoenix Rescue Mission has to offer.

While Glendale Works cleans dirt in city beautification projects, Scottsdale Works is using dirt to build the future, brick by brick.

The Scottsdale Works program is designed to engage individuals experiencing homelessness in Scottsdale, provide them with the dignity of earning a wage, and connect them with services that can break down the barriers that are keeping them homeless – all while providing a service to the community as a whole.

“Once cured, the bricks are very strong,” says Mike Lopach who oversees operations in this joint venture with the City of Scottsdale.

“The hope is to use these bricks to benefit people experiencing homelessness by building tiny home communities,” says Mike. “They’ve got them in Detroit, St. Louis and Portland. But where those are built from sheds, we are building ours out of much more energy-efficient bricks. The key is to provide a dignified living space that is welcoming and has services available.

Mike and Jason check the measurement of a brick. The team is capable of producing enough bricks to complete one tiny home every four to five days.

Working together, participants are able to produce about 50-60 bricks per hour or about 250-300 per day. With 200 square-foot tiny homes requiring about 1,500 bricks each, this team is capable of crafting enough to produce one home every four to five days.

Since launching on November 30, 2020, the program has already changed Jason’s life. Homeless for over 20 years, Jason found work through Scottsdale Works as one of our first participants and today he’s living in the first apartment he’s ever had to himself.

“It’s a dream,” says Jason with a smile. “I don’t have to worry about sitting at the bus stop or trying to find a dry place at night to sleep. I can come and go as I please. I have some money in my pocket; it’s not much but it’s enough.”

Jason isn’t the only one feeling pride in their work and where it’s got them. In the first few months of operation, Scottsdale Works already has a rotating team of 20 strong with more on the way.

“The goal is to keep our participants coming back two or three times a month… enough time to see progress – to see some of our services in action in the lives of their co-workers,” says Reese, our Street Outreach Coordinator for Scottsdale Works, “For example, we were able to furnish Jason’s new apartment with a microwave, pots and pans, dishes and linens, all the necessities you need for an apartment. Once the other participants hear about it, they start asking what else we can do – and that opens the door to all sorts of transformation.

Scottsdale Works is another example of how your support is making transformation possible in new and innovative ways.

“If this hadn’t come along, I’d still be on the streets,” says Jason. “After so many years, I figured I’d die on the streets. This gave me new hope.

Reese (left), our Street Outreach Coordinator for Scottsdale Works, helped navigate Jason off the streets, into his own apartment, and connected him to services to help set him up for success.