On Friday, I read an article in the Arizona Daily Star headlined “Arizona is now no. 2 in poverty.” One in five Arizonans are living below the poverty line. And I’m fairly certain that a life hovering above that line is nothing near easy. So, that statistic can’t even begin to capture the amount of individuals living with too little food, unsafe housing, and an immeasurable amount of stress.
And here I am in South Tucson, Arizona. As of last year, the poverty rate for this 1.2 square mile of a city was at 46.2%. That’s almost half of the population living below this “line.” The Primavera Foundation where I am working has several emergency shelters, as well a handful of transitional housing programs. As of late, they are usually all at or near capacity. Earlier this week I spent the morning in the central intake office. People can call this office to learn about and apply for housing programs. Because I am so new to the foundation, I could not actually answer telephone calls- I simply listened. Right now, the waiting period for a family in need of shelter is 100 days…. More than THREE months. So, I sat for four hours listening to my co-worker tell these people that “we’re all full” time and time again.
Here are the two images that were left in my mind:
1. Individual 1 says “I’m sorry we’re full.” “Ok, thank you.” “Bye.” Click. She glances down, sighs, and maybe even feels sad for this un-named individual who has just been turned away from a place to stay. But then she knows that she has to keep going. So, she goes back to the e-mail she is writing to a city official, or the grant she is writing, and easily forgets that quick conversation that will be soon repeated.
2. Individual 2 hears: “I’m sorry, we’re full.” And then says, “Well, I’ll look elsewhere, thank you.” “Bye.” Click. She blinks a tear from her eye and smiles at her 2 small children from behind the glass of the payphone station. She is sad, but knows that she must keep going. She walks back over to her children, and prepares to tell them that they will be spending one more night in their car. She puts the number for the shelter back in her pocket, and tells herself there will be room tomorrow.
I pray that I may find a balance between thanksgiving and anger that I’m on the first end of that phone line. And that I may be lead to an ever-present drive to not allow this to continue to occur.
From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. – Psalm 3:8