Church, Chandler nonprofit team to keep homeless people safe during coronavirus

As COVID-19 persists, Arizonans are finding themselves down and out. But nonprofits throughout metro Phoenix are lending a helping hand. (Video by Melanie Porter/Cronkite News)

Cronkite News is reporting on acts of humanity in Arizona communities, sharing the big and small ways people are helping each other in the era of coronavirus.

PHOENIX – “Stay at home” takes on a whole new meaning when you live on the streets with no regular meals, shelter or aid.

Before coronavirus, Chandler nonprofit AZCEND worked with several churches across metro Phoenix to provide housing, food and hot showers to those experiencing homelessness.

But with social distancing measures forcing closures of some facilities, one church has stepped up as the sole host site to help limit exposure for both volunteers and the people they serve.

“We’ve always relied on our community, and this is a time when we really need our community,” said Trinity Donovan, CEO of AZCEND, which operates the I-HELP program for those without permanent housing.

“Without food, people are going to be more susceptible to health issues,” Donovan said. “And we need everyone to be as healthy as possible during this time.”

For now, Valley Unitarian Universalist in Chandler is the only host site for the I-HELP program.

“It was the right thing to do. It was a moral thing,” said Sue Ringler, congregation administrator for the church. “It’s based on the mission of what the church is really about. I think the humanity of it was really evident to all of us.”

According to the Phoenix Rescue Mission, more than 25,000 people are estimated to be homeless in Maricopa County, and 37% of the area’s homeless are families.

Ringler said helping out during COVID-19 is part of her church’s overall mission.

“Valley Unitarian Universal is all about love and service. That’s what we do,” she said. “Service is our prayer.”

Health Reporter, Phoenix

Melanie Porter was born and raised in Arizona and is an undergraduate studyin journalism. She is a broadcast reporter covering health for Cronkite News.