Homelessness has many faces, and can involve just as many complications.
Some individuals are happy in the company of others, eager to accept help in getting sober, finding work and the chance at independence. Some are trying hard to stay sober and may hesitate to go to a “wet” shelter, where those who are not sober are also welcome. Some have pets that may not be welcome at a shelter. Some are afraid they will lose their belongings or be somehow harmed while sharing space with others. Those who work with homeless people know that addressing the many needs that come in the door is a constant balancing act. When winter comes, sleeping outdoors becomes downright dangerous.
Some years ago in our town, two homeless veterans died from exposure outside a full shelter. The shock of this tragedy sent waves through the Prescott community, resulting in the creation of Operation Deep Freeze.
When temperatures are predicted to fall below freezing, this program kicks in to provide shelter beyond the normal capacity so that no one is left out in the cold. Bridging this gap in emergency shelter services is one of the core functions of the Quad City Interfaith Council (QCIC). Though originally started by the Coalition for Compassion and Justice, in 2014 it passed to a QCIC working committee.
The QCIC is a consortium of churches, civic organizations and nonprofit agencies serving the homeless. These include the Salvation Army and the Coalition for Compassion and Justice, which view the shelter effort as a ministry to those most at risk in our community. Addressing homelessness is not the only issue the QCIC works to address, but is central to its mission, and currently very much on the minds of its members.
For the past few years the Salvation Army has provided space to house overflow on sub-freezing nights when other shelters are full, but the organization recently announced that it would no longer be able to host overflow clients. This is a serious problem with not much time to solve it before cold weather arrives. Every year the Operation Deep Freeze committee is faced with raising funds to cover the cost of running the overflow shelter, but this year it faces three challenges: finding a facility to house the program, attracting the donations necessary to fund it, and organizing volunteer support to provide meals and staffing. Overcoming these challenges will ensure the ongoing success of this essential service.
The physical building requirements for Operation Deep Freeze include area of about 2,000 square feet, two restrooms, with an accessible ADA shower if possible, and three to five employees on site at night, 5pm-7am. (Staff must be capable of overseeing intake protocols, supervising guests, and providing security for them and their belongings.)
Many hearts and minds are working to make sure Operation Deep Freeze remains viable this winter and into the future. To donate or help in any way, please visit www.yavapaiccj.org