Newsroom | A Helping Hand: Finding the Right Way to Make a Difference

MAG News

Just as there are many ways people fall into homelessness, there are many ways to help them find their way out.

Real change, not spare change, is key to reducing homelessness


The loss of a job. Rising rent. Health problems. Domestic violence. There are countless paths into homelessness. With the dramatic increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, many of us are eager to help.  The urge to give money to people often wins out. But that’s not always the most effective solution.

Helping Hands

Just as there are many ways people fall into homelessness, there are many ways to help them find their way out. Organizations across the region are working to reduce the number of unsheltered people on the street. 

Organizations such as the Healthy Giving Council, UMOM New Day Centers, Hands-on Greater Phoenix, and the Arizona Housing Coalition all work to reduce homelessness. Each group has the same goal but takes different approaches to the same objective.

“Help means I am assisting you in getting to where you want to go, not that I am doing it all for you,” says Jerome Parker of the Healthy Giving Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving people resources to get off the street.

Journey Out of Homelessness

Parker shares the story of a woman named Crystal he met several years ago in Sunnyslope. Crystal spent four to five years on the street, battling addiction. 

“She just started putting the pieces of her life back together. She got into rehab. Rehab turned into a job at a shelter, and she was able to stay at the shelter, and she was just slowly building the blocks of her life.” 

And that’s when Crystal’s revelation became clear.

“What she said was that if people would have continued to give her money or feed her on the street, there would have been no incentive for her to really do the things that she needed to do to better her life. And that is the thing I hear a lot. I have heard people say, ‘I spent six years on the street – it could have been just six months, but I had everything I needed,’” said Parker. “Basically, the message that I hear from people that were formerly homeless is that they had been enabled for so long that it just kind of got easy.”

A Hand Up Not a HandoutChanging Lives

The Healthy Giving Council’s motto is “give a hand up, not a handout.” 

Jerome Parker explains that on the group’s website,, there is a brochure with 16 different organizations ranging from mental health organizations to short-term living situations, even organizations that will take pets. 

“I literally give them the brochure and tell that person that is at the freeway corner – if you call one of these numbers, they are really going to be able to help you. This could be the first step to you changing the trajectory of your life,” Parker said.

Families Too

While most people experiencing homelessness are individuals, a growing number of families are in that situation, too.

UMOM New Day Centers family shelter is where many families experiencing homelessness begin their journey back to a steady home. The UMOM campus in Central Phoenix includes housing in the form of a converted motel. 

UMOM is part of the Regional Continuum of Care. The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) organizes the continuum regionally and is the annual applicant to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for funding related to homelessness.

Cassidy Penny, marketing director for UMOM New Day Centers, says UMOM is the largest family shelter in Arizona and handles approximately 75 percent of people who come into the region’s shelters. When people first arrive in the shelter, UMOM’s goal is to provide them with everything they need. 

“You know, I can't even tell you how many times people come with literally the clothing on their back. That's all they have. We provide everything from clothing to all their daily needs. Shampoo, conditioner, diapers, formula. So that is where donated products really come into play,” Penny says. 

There is a great need for daily items, clothing, coats, and winter jackets. UMOM has lots of children on campus, so there is a need for books as well. 

Penny says UMOM also needs pots, pans, and kitchenware. “All of the day-to-day items that people need and use at home are what we need as well.”

Penny shares the story of two women who recently came to UMOM. Mallorie and her mother both escaped difficult situations. Mallorie told UMOM, “The rapid rehousing program was really great to me. They gave me furniture because I had to leave all my stuff when I fled my domestic violence. They helped me with my rent, my bills, so I could stock up on food and save for a car.”

UMOM accepts donations through its website and at its Phoenix warehouse. Donation pick-ups can also be scheduled.

Pathways Home Cover

Programs and partnerships like these are just a few examples of what cities are doing across the region to help people experiencing homelessness. The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Pathways Home Regional Action Plan for Local and Tribal Governments seeks to reduce homelessness in the region by 25 percent by 2027. 

Learn more about how the Healthy Giving Council, UMOM, and other programs are helping communities across the region.  

Published March 21, 2023