Tempe outreach brings hope to city’s homeless

For those experiencing homelessness in and around Tempe, hope—and help—are on the

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Related to the city’s ongoing efforts to broaden access to emergency shelter and increase longer-term support, officials say the city’s initiatives are at the same time enabling people to reconnect with family and have better access to medical care. Through approximately 14,000 engagements reported so far, an estimated 1,000 people have been helped off the streets in just over a year, say officials.

Mayor Corey Woods, who has been among City Council advocates for increased services to a widely underserved population, praised the efforts of city staff involved in the program.

“In Tempe, we are heavily invested in the health and well-being of our unsheltered population and the broader community,” said Woods.

“Working together with our residents, business community and nonprofit partners, we are
continually enhancing our response to meet more needs and make homelessness a rare, brief and one-time experience.”

Vice Mayor Jennifer Adams was equally enthusiastic about the results of the program so far,
and the work being done to accomplish it.

“I am enthusiastic about the direction our city is taking regarding the unsheltered. We are
connecting those in need with resources that will greatly improve their lives.

“We will continue to reach out to our neighboring communities with the goal of a more
regional approach to joining resources in order to positively effect the entire east valley community.

“I am proud of our staff and our partners in the nonprofit community for working so closely
together to improve the lives of members of our community.”

As part of Tempe’s pursuit of solutions to the challenges of homelessness, a program known as Tempe Works connects unsheltered people with jobs in the city’s Municipal Utilities and Community Services efforts.

Through the program, they can get help accessing shelter, housing and social services.
Established in 2017, Tempe Works is actively seeking local employers to expand jobs.
Adding new opportunities means more pathways out of homelessness for people like
Jeffery Wessell, 63, a Tempe Works graduate who now has housing and works 40 hours a week for the city.

A serious back injury left the truck driver unable to work and pay his rent. He dipped into
retirement and scraped by with help from family and friends, but ultimately was evicted from his existing lodging.

After years of steady employment and independence, Wessell found himself living in
his truck in Tempe. He connected with I-HELP, a nonprofit Tempe shelter program, and then the city’s Tempe Works jobs program. After working for Municipal Utilities, Wessell graduated from Tempe Works and began another job with the city, helping maintain the city’s Double Butte Cemetery and assisting with funeral services.
His steady paycheck covers rent for a one-bedroom apartment, he says – and buys peace of mind. “I have my own little space and I’m trying to get back on my feet,” Wessell said.

“It’s nice. I can stretch out, put my feet up. I have my television. I can fix meals. I can take a shower any time I want. I can go wash my clothes and not carry them around with me and wait for the opportunity to exist.

“I can relax. I don’t have as much on my mind,” he said. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to work again because of the condition of my back. It feels good.” Employers interested in Tempe Works can email the program coordinator at Lilliana_Urenda@tempe.gov



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