There are several times of year in which we are keenly reminded of the values that make a community strong, the bonds that are most important and the duties we all share to help those around us. The holiday season serves as a potent and annual reminder that there are many among us who are less fortunate and in dire need of assistance. In recent years, communities throughout the Phoenix area have demonstrated the power of charity and compassion by reaching out to families in need of help but often too proud to seek it on their own.
Recalling how her family took in a homeless family during an unusually cold December in Phoenix during the late 1980s, Diana Reynolds began mobilizing community members in late 2013 to help protect residents from what threatened to be record-low temperatures — so low that there was intense concern that homeless people exposed to the elements in the Valley overnight could lose their lives unless they were provided with proper shelter. Reynolds and a number of others collected charitable donations and made sure those at risk would be able to find adequate shelter so they could remain warm.
Since Christmas of 2013, the efforts of the city and community members have increased exponentially to ensure that all residents are able to enjoy the holidays and do not have to confront legitimate concerns for their survival. Through expanded efforts that include increased shelter options and access to essential services like heating repair, Phoenix and its citizens have made incredible strides to aid those who are less fortunate during the holiday season. After all, every family is deserving of warmth — both in the figurative and literal sense.
While Reynolds is proud of the effort of the people in the Phoenix area, she is the first to point out that there is so much more that needs to be done. Along with a number of other volunteers, Reynolds continues to spend a lot of her free time at homeless shelters to offer her support and has become a strong advocate for the kind of wholesale changes that will help families rise above their current circumstances. Recognizing that these are good people who want nothing more than an opportunity, Reynolds believes that the community must create more expansive programs that include education and job training.
These suggestions may seem like an overreach, and there are certainly a number of people who believe that this kind of help goes well beyond the purview of any community or government. Perhaps that is the case, but there have been a number of recent studies indicating that these types of expansive programs are not only more effective in reducing poverty and homelessness, but they are also less expensive. Even though there is a cost associated with implementing these kinds of programs, the resulting reduction in other local government expenditures is so much greater that it may be financially irresponsible to fail to offer such expansive program offerings.
In fact, many communities have found that the most cost-efficient and effective solution is to actually provide permanent housing for the homeless. Studies have indicated that there is nothing more important than the stability of a living situation when it comes to reducing overall homelessness. Those who have experienced some sort of misfortune are better able to make positive life changes, find gainful employment and become more self-sufficient as a result, and this outcome means a reduced need for the costly support services that these individuals would continue to seek without the benefit of a more stable living situation leading to self-sufficiency.
As for Reynolds, she has indicated that she will continue to be a strong advocate for those less fortunate than herself. The holidays indeed represent a time in which support should be offered to those who are enduring harsh struggles, and Reynolds has found it much easier to round up volunteers willing to offer their help during the weeks beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with Christmas. The key, according to Reynolds, is to remind people that there are many families in need of year-round assistance, and it is quite encouraging that this type of consistent compassion and warmth is beginning to spread throughout the area with increasing speed.