I’ve become an advocate of sorts for the homeless of Arizona in the last few years. Working at the health department, I have seen how and why folks become homeless. There are holes in our social nets, but! But. There are also fiercely strong sections too.

Flagstaff Shelter Services is one of those strong ropes, providing nightly shelter for more than 80 folks year round, and day services to another 200 or more who need to get inside for a meal, or to do laundry. They are having an annual fundraiser in a couple weeks, including a silent auction. I can’t attend the event, but I sent this sweater:

Latest baby sweater

Latest baby sweater

Latest baby sweater

A baby sweater isn’t going to solve much, but it is what I can do for now. That and talk about homelessness and what we can all do to further strengthen our communities to help those most in need. While there are those who say homeless folks enjoy their culture and “want to be on the streets,” — I promise you those are far and few between.

Many in Flagstaff, and Phoenix and Tucson and all the towns between, are families who hit a rough spot and faced eviction. Sleeping in their cars led to further problems and a loss of employment. A bad car accident without health insurance left them penniless. Serving in the military left them with nightmares and the inability to trust, much less work. A substance abuse problem, an abusive partner, a series of bad decisions left them vulnerable and without a home.

These are the more common stories.

I know there are many of you who read this blog from your own communities in Maine, Texas, England, Australia, Japan and South Africa. I know that we face different social issues but each of our neighborhoods have those who need a bit of help, a hand up — as they say. It is delightful to support FSS and iHelp in Tempe, Chandler and Mesa — two organizations that truly are helping the homeless find work, get established and start over.

We are all the same, whether we are on the streets or comfortable in our warm beds. We want to be safe. We want to be loved. Our lives matter.