Stories of Transformation: Robert

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!”

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.

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.

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.