Brian Garcia Welcome Center helps make homeless services more efficient

The Brian Garcia Welcome Center primarily serves individuals, but families aren't turned away. (Celeste Cruz Rojas/DD)

A week after opening its doors, the Brian Garcia Welcome Center has become the entry point for the homeless population on the Human Service Campus in Phoenix.

The center, located at 12th Avenue and Madison Street, opened recently in an effort to help the homeless reach appropriate services. The welcome center makes the admission process for homeless individuals more efficient because it assesses each person’s needs and then provides the necessary services.

Regional Coordinated Entry Systems Manager of the Lodestar Day Resource Center TJ Reed said the shelter hopes to help divert people away from shelter services with the use of some funding while staff brainstorm on how to reconnect people with family and friends. The center provides assessments of need for the individual and an entry point for homeless people to be directed to the right services.

Reed said the goal is to help people out of homelessness. The services offered at the campus are a way to help people become more independent. These services include 700 temporary shelter beds and three meals a day. Other services include providing identification documents, benefits sign-up, mental health services, job training, legal assistance and health care.

“I get 80 percent disability and am 100 percent with the VA, but I am fighting cancer,” said Rodney Crofoot, a veteran who waited in line to receive a meal at the campus.

Since opening, the Brian Garcia Welcome Center is averaging about 50 people a day. Maricopa County expects the center to be utilized by 7,000 people a year.

Reed said the welcome center is primarily serviced for single individuals, but families are never turned away. When families arrive at the center they are provided with transportation to get to shelters that better suit each family’s needs.

“It is a complex system,” Reed said, describing the approach used to coordinate services. “It is very dynamic and very complex so it takes a lot of energy to try to get people into housing.”

Breakdowns in communication are a major difficulty in providing the appropriate service to each individual that comes to the center.

David Smith, communications manager of the Central Arizona Shelter Services, said the welcome center serves as the first stop for single men and women to be assessed. If the help needed is short term, they remain at the Human Service Campus and if they need more help, they send the people to the Vista Colina Emergency Family shelter.

The family center shelters on average 36 families a night and served a total 5,500 people last fiscal year.

Smith said 60 percent of the funding for these shelters comes from entities such the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and 40 private funders and funds from the city of Phoenix and other neighboring cities.

The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority and the Garcia Family Foundation, along with Thunderbirds Charities, made the Brian Garcia Welcome Center possible.

“We’ve got to treat people as individuals who need help addressing their own unique sets of circumstances,” said Maricopa County supervisor Steve Gallardo.

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