A man walked into the shelter, rough around the edges from living on the street. Covered with tattoos, needing a bath and clean clothes, it’s easy to imagine how you might avoid interacting with him. You could easily make assumptions about his character. He was recently released from prison and needed a job and an apartment, a leg up into the functioning, bill-paying world we are lucky enough to live in.
Felons are not often welcomed by landlords, but this shelter works hard not only to provide meals and a warm place to sleep, but also to advocate for unhoused people who have nowhere else to turn. They found him an apartment, he worked a steady job, got on his feet and eventually brought his daughters back to live with him. Now he stops by the shelter from time to time to see if they need help with anything, helping others get that same leg up.
The Coalition for Compassion and Justice began in 2001 with the mission of ending and preventing homelessness. In addition to the shelter and the Second Chance Thrift Store CCJ provides advocacy and work readiness, offers home repair for the elderly and disabled, and creates and finds affordable housing for its clients.
The work of CCJ is client-focused, so the response when someone comes through the door is relevant. It has built-in organizational agility, so the staff can respond quickly when, for instance, someone comes in needing insurance and has no birth certificate. The staff works closely with many community partners while at the same time participating in city and faith-community meetings to advocate for change. In 2019 the Arizona Housing Coalition recognized CCJ with its Innovation in Housing Award. CCJ has built multiunit housing for homeless individuals, and is currently building a new multiunit site in Chino Valley.
Not specifically faith-based, the shelter is inclusive, welcoming gender-nonconforming individuals, people with dogs (often a problem at other shelters) and those who may not be strictly sober. As a ‘wet’ shelter, CCJ will not turn away someone who has been drinking, as long as they are not disruptive or a danger to themselves or others. Many shelters are ‘dry,’ and so do not admit individuals who have not yet achieved sobriety.
We hear increasingly about people living on the edge, just one illness or mishap away from losing their housing. What may be just rotten luck can push someone out onto the streets, which, partly due to the stigma and distrust attached to being homeless, makes it really hard to get a break where they can hold down a job and get affordable housing. The CCJ has hosted many individuals who have broken out of the vortex of street life.
This past year has been a hard one for CCJ, which has experienced some hard knocks of its own. The community has been generous in helping the organization keep providing its much-needed services. One initiative to help the CCJ comes from a local gallery that holds a fundraiser each year for a designated nonprofit. The Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, owned and operated by 30 local artists, has practiced a tradition of holding a holiday fundraiser for a local charity as a way of giving back to this community.
Arts Prescott was created to support a buy-locally tradition, and locals really get the importance of supporting their local artists by shopping there. For 29 years Arts Prescott members and other artists have donated their work for a show running from Thanksgiving weekend into early January, donating 100% of the proceeds to a selected charity. Donations include paintings, photographs, ceramic work, fiber art, glass art, gourds, woodworking, pieces from many jewelers, and wearable art. Arts-Prescott members come together at their monthly business meeting and decide in September which local nonprofit to raise funds for this year. Typically every other year will feature an animal-centered organization.
In addition to being a cooperative gallery, Arts Prescott is unique in its commitment to holding this annual fundraiser show. Gourd artist Shelley Fletcher says, “The fundraiser makes us different from other galleries. All our members are invited to donate, as well as other nonmember artists. Other galleries don’t have the same buy-in. We really get excited about our holiday show.” Shelley and other members of the gallery make pieces specifically for this show. Marjorie Claus, 2D mixed “Compassion.” “This event gives us an opportunity to help those who, for whatever reason, often not their fault, find themselves on the street. It’s cold in Prescott in the winter!” adds Shelley.
Jeanne and Mark Hines have been members of the co-op for over ten years and supported themselves on their art sales for many more. This is not an easy or consistently lucrative career. Jeanne shared that this year’s selected organization has a particular resonance for her. When the recession hit in 2008, art sales plummeted, she and Mark lost their home, and she took on working several jobs to help make ends meet. “You get in a situation and it’s like tunnel vision.” She knows that offering a little help to someone on the edge can make an outsized difference.
We cover this fundraiser every fall due to its uniqueness, and because we try to bring attention to community-forward initiatives. When you visit Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery on Whiskey Row during the holiday season, know that when you purchase a piece from the fundraiser show you not only have a piece of art, but you are also supporting the Coalition for Compassion and Justice in its mission to end and prevent homelessness in our town. Monetary donations can also be made at the gallery.
The show will open for the 4th Friday Art Walk on November 24, at the Arts Prescott Gallery, 134 S. Montezuma St. Many members will be there to greet you, as well as CCJ staff members, who will be happy to speak about their work. Come enjoy the live music, festive food and the beginning of the season of giving!