Not asking for help when it is needed may be a matter of pride. It’s something that Mary Lou Rosales sees all the time.
Rosales is the executive director of Community Action Human Resources Agency, which will participate in a grand opening and ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. on Monday for a new center to aid the homeless in Casa Grande. She recalls seeing tears on people’s faces, even on grown men when they ask for help.
“We do what we can, and we help them in what they need at that time,” Rosales said.
She added that people may say that the community health center, Sun Life Family Health Center, is across town.
“Well, because they don’t want to go to a big building with lots of people,” Rosales said, “maybe this will be a more welcoming place.”
The CGHELPS Resource Center, which is located inside the Peart Center at 350 E. Sixth St., will be a one-stop place for not just those who are homeless, but those who are near homeless as well. Rosales said some may be individuals who don’t have the money to pay the rent because they got sick or lost their job, or individuals who can’t afford to pay the utilities that are a stipulation in the lease agreement.
“If someone lives in subsidized housing and they can’t pay their electricity, they could be evicted,” she said. “They are supposed to have all the services on.”
In addition to financial assistance, the site will offer an on-site nurse for basic medical care, an individualized case manager, GED and English classes, connections to job readiness and employment programs, behavioral health programs, and basic goods such as food, clothing, shoes and personal-hygiene products.
The center will also offer Casa Grande Public Library programs, assistance with accessing social service agencies and referrals to other agencies. United Way of Pinal County also is housed in the building.
The resource center is the culmination of the city’s task force on homelessness that was put together by Mayor Craig McFarland and members of the City Council.
“One of the biggest takeaways from the task force was that homelessness is a complex issue and individuals who find themselves in that situation have different needs,” McFarland said in a press release. “The center consolidates resources from across the area so that our community-based agencies and partners can serve those in need more effectively and efficiently.”
One reason homelessness is a complex issue is because the definition of being homeless is vague. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are four categories of homelessness. They are: living in a place that is not meant for human habitation; loss of primary nighttime residence; families with children or unaccompanied youths who are in unstable housing or are likely to continue in that state; and fleeing or attempting to flee a domestic violence situation and having no other residence or resources to obtain permanent housing.
Rosales even went further on the HUD definition to include someone who is “couch surfing” or “crashing” on a different person’s couch every night.
“There is all kinds of definitions,” she said. “I think the number that we came up with was something like 1,000 (homeless people in Casa Grande) but you have to recall who you talk to and their definitions.”
Whether the center will be a game changer in combating homelessness in Casa Grande is something that remains to be seen. In the meantime, Rosales said organizers will wait to see who comes in and added that it’s going to be a learning experience.
“We will find out what is needed and we will adjust,” she said. “There are ways to do things in helping people instead of doing the most negative. There is always a way. There is a creative way that something will help.”