How Healthy Giving Can Change A Life

Here are three truths, one of them uncomfortable:

1) People have a deep instinct to be generous around the holidays.

2) A lot of that goodwill is directed toward those without a home or stable living situation.

3) Some well-intended help does more harm than good.

Chairman Steve Chucri, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors

As leaders in both the public and service sectors, inspired by our respective faith and values, we believe deeply in the need to serve those who are less fortunate. Supporting people who are struggling is not merely our professional responsibility as a County Supervisor and a Catholic Priest, it is deeply personal to us.

We understand and applaud the desire to do something when you hear that more than 6,000 people in Maricopa County are homeless on any given night. That some of them are families. That a growing number are youth. That a higher percentage each year is unsheltered. That mental health issues, the opioid epidemic, and the limited availability of affordable housing means communities all over the Valley are now seeing and feeling the impact of people experiencing homelessness.

Father Tom Doyle, Executive Director of Andre House

We understand why faith-based groups, non-profits, businesses, and individuals are moved to hand out food on street corners and other public spaces this time of year. There’s a profound beauty to this generosity, and often there’s an immediate payoff. Many street givers are showered with smiles and thanks. They get the satisfaction that comes with doing something.

But here are three more truths you might not have considered:

1) There’s typically an overabundance of food, blankets, and clothing around the holidays.

Non-profits across the county serve hearty and healthy meals to the homeless every day in safe, clean, and controlled environment. Near the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix, there are two to three meals a day served every week of the year at Andre House and St. Vincent de Paul. The excess covers the sidewalks and streets. Additional food is not typically needed and leads to waste.

2) Street giving makes a mess.

Last year during the holiday season (November 15th-January 5th), the City of Phoenix hauled away nearly 36 tons of trash and debris in the five-block section near the Human Services Campus. Neighborhood trash and blight work against the goal of creating a safe, clean, dignified environment that lifts people up.

3) Your gifts may keep individuals from getting what they truly need long-term.

People experiencing homelessness have no place to store food or possessions. Unfortunately, one-off donations delivered to street corners, parks, or other locations provide short-lived relief and can delay or divert people from seeking services that can help end their homelessness.

So what’s the alternative? Healthy giving, all year long!

This is giving that takes both the seasonal as well as the long-term needs of the individual and the community into consideration.

In practice, it means working hand-in-hand with trusted service providers engaged in caring 365 days a year. These organizations coordinate volunteers and connect people experiencing poverty to resources that help end their homelessness. They also provide human connections that can lead someone on the streets to feel valued, understood, and worthy of a better life.

To that end, we both support the recently-launched “Healthy Giving Can Change a Life” campaign led by the Healthy Giving Council. You can find out how to donate, volunteer, or support this effort by going to

While it’s too early to measure long-term impact, we have seen a short-term benefit to this united message: cleaner streets. Over Thanksgiving weekend last year, the City of Phoenix had to clear out more than 13 tons of trash from the streets and trash bins around the Human Services Campus. This year, they picked up 8.25 tons. That trend can continue if we all work together.

We know you share our desire to be part of the solution. This year, don’t just do something. Do the best thing. Be a healthy giver and make a lasting positive impact for your community and for those experiencing homelessness.

Steve Chucri is the Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, representing District 2. Father Tom Doyle is the Executive Director of Andre House.



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