United Way program gives homeless help - Your West Valley News: Topstory

United Way program gives homeless help

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Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2011 3:30 am

Deborah Trotter’s journey back from homelessness has been compounded by the her battle against a debilitating disease.

After contracting hepatitis, the Phoenix woman was unable to complete daily tasks for her longtime career in human resources.

Once the sole breadwinner of her household, she was forced to resign from her job two years ago and finding employment since has been a struggle as she continues to deal with depression and constant fatigue.

In just one day, Trotter and dozens of other homeless individuals and families began the road to recovery through Valley of the Sun United Way’s Project Connect.

Thursday, the nonprofit’s monthly event visited Surprise at Christ Church of the Valley, 14787 W. Cholla St.

The visit put a face to homelessness for many volunteers, who helped individuals and families get back on their feet through housing and job assistance referrals.

Project Connect provides homeless individuals immediate access to vital human services under one roof versus going through hoops and waiting several days to receive the same services in offices across the Valley.

After enrolling in the state’s food stamps program, Trotter received a free haircut and picked out clothing for her unborn granddaughter, who’s expected to be delivered in a few months.

“I feel bad that they’re hand-me-downs, but it’s all I’ve got,” Trotter said of the donated clothing items she took back to a downtown Phoenix women’s ministry, her temporary home.

The 48-year-old has a disability court hearing Monday to determine whether she’s eligible to work. Trotter hopes the modest wage enables her to move out of the women’s ministry and into an apartment near Moon Valley High School, where her son is enrolled.

“I’m just trying to take it day to day,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this place (the women’s shelter), I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d be doing.”

Trotter lost her job in September 2009, and along with her husband and teenaged son, was evicted from her Phoenix home the following January. Trotter was earning $35,000 annually.

Like others in similar circumstances, the Trotter family tried to make ends meet, but wound up moving from apartment to apartment. The U.S. Census Bureau says 1 in 5 Arizonans are living in poverty, forcing many people with low incomes to make tough daily choices for survival.

Oftentimes, job loss, an unexpected health event and home foreclosure can be just enough for individuals and families to lose their way financially, said Amy Schwabenlender, vice president of community impact for Valley of the Sun United Way.

Last year’s inaugural Project Connect event in Surprise attracted 109 people, with the large percentage being women and families with young children. The nonprofit’s goal this year was to serve around 130 people.

“Many of these people become invisible,” said Schwabenlender. “To not be told you have to wait several days for an answer or make a separate appointment elsewhere is huge.”

There are other venues for those down on their luck to visit for immediate care and services.

Compassionate Surprise is a city program linking residents to programs that offer housing assistance, job placement, counseling, shelter and educational opportunities, amongst others.

Through Compassionate Surprise, city and faith leaders meet regularly to look at the gaps in services provided to those in need, said Stephanie Smith, crisis response supervisor for the Surprise Fire Department.

For assistance with mortgage management or foreclosure issues, call 623-222-4663.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or zcolick@yourwestvalley.com.

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