It’s a tough world out there and for those experiencing homelessness, rising above those circumstances might seem to be a hopeless battle. That’s where Tempe Community Action Agency steps in.
TCAA’s Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program provides shelter as well as a means of gaining employment and self-sufficiency. The program relies on 11 churches in Tempe that take turns sheltering and feeding up to 40 men and women each night, every day of the year.
Deborah Arteaga, executive director of TCAA, said a mobile shower trailer and laundry trailer are driven to the host church to allow program participants to bathe and wash clothing. A Friday, Oct. 19 fundraiser to support TCAA’s programming is one of the ways area residents can touch the lives of people like Ron.
Ron was living on the street and sleeping in a nearby field when he found his way to I-HELP, just one of TCAA’s programs. With a physical disability and no income, Ron was also the victim of identity theft. Through TCAA, he found shelter, food and assistance with securing identification documents as well as public benefits and job coaching. While seeking employment, Ron volunteered at TCAA’s food pantry.
Beyond those who are homeless, the agency also reaches out to other vulnerable individuals. Arteaga pointed to TCAA’s pantry and home-delivered meals as one of the ways the organization helps those who are struggling with hunger.
Volunteers take home-delivered meals to about 200 individuals in Tempe and South Scottsdale Monday through Friday with extra meals for the weekend are also delivered on Fridays. For some homebound recipients, it’s the only human contact they have with another person all day. TCAA volunteers are not only brining food, they’re performing a well-check.
“We couldn’t do it without volunteers,” Arteaga said. “It’s what helps keep a low staff number and keeps the focus on services.” Last year, TCAA had about 755 volunteers.
“We do need more volunteers for the home-delivered meals program,” Arteaga said. “They use their own vehicle and can get mileage reimbursement from us.”
Beyond the feeding, clothing, sheltering and job training programs, TCAA provides a whole host of other services that touch the lives of some of the more vulnerable members of the community. A pre-natal and post-natal program brings home visits to pregnant women and new mothers to help keep babies healthy. Services to seniors include recreational and exercise programs, referrals for benefits assistance, cooking demonstrations and social events.
TCAA also sponsors community gardens as wells as emergency rent and utilities assistance.
About a quarter of the agency’s $4.6 million annual budget consists of in-kind donations, Arteaga said, and “93 cents of every dollar goes out to service.
“We’re impacting a lot of people,” Arteaga said. “That’s one in eight Tempe residents—our largest volume ever.”
TCAA’s annual fundraiser, dubbed “Vicinity,” helps fund some of the many services the organization offers. During the 2018 fiscal year, TCAA served more than 22,000 adults and children as well as provided 731,872 meals.
The 14thannual Vicinity event, honoring the community’s culinary and cultural diversity while supporting the organization’s mission, takes place 6:30-9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 at Big Surf Waterpark. The evening pays tribute to TCAA’s 52-year history of service to economically vulnerable populations living in and around Tempe and includes offerings of wine, craft beer and edibles from area establishments. Food, drink, live music by local music celeb Walt Richardson plus a silent auction will be among highlights.
Electa Thompson has been attending TCAA’s fundraiser for years. “From the very first time I went, I was in love with the event,” Thompson. “What stood out to me most is that it was truly an event for catching up and meeting new people in the community that have the same passion around the work of TCAA.”
Proceeds from the evening will provide support for TCAA programs designed to help adults and children overcome crises, reach their potential and contribute to their community. Beneficiaries include such programs as I-Help, Tempe’s only homeless shelter program; Tempe’s largest Food Pantry; Senior Independence Services, including a home-delivered meals program and senior center operations; two community gardens; health outreach services for pregnant and parenting families, and workforce development services designed to improve the economic status of individuals and families.
Big Surf Waterpark is at 1500 N. McClintock Drive, Tempe.