A significant homeless and working poor population has existed in downtown Phoenix since the late 1970's – a period marked by the demolition of many of the affordable housing alternatives. Tent cities sprouted and in response, in 1984, Central Arizona Shelter Services opened their doors as an emergency shelter for the homeless on Madison Avenue. Not coincidentally, the CASS shelter was built on the site of a highly visible tent city. Simultaneously, the Andre House and other providers also began providing meals, showers, clothing, and basic needs to individuals experiencing homelessness in the area. St. Vincent de Paul (operating in the area since the mid 1950’s) continued its meal service.
Soon the Madison/12th avenue area (colloquially known as “The Zone”) became home to a multitude of organizations dedicated to assisting those experiencing homelessness including St. Vincent de Paul, St. Joseph the Worker, NOVA Safe Haven, Healthcare for the Homeless, Andre House, as well as CASS.
In the early 2000’s, momentum built for a new approach to assist individuals in sustainably ending their homelessness. This push was met with renewed vigor from many service providers, local and state officials, and the business community in downtown Phoenix. The community agreed to a solution built on collaboration and leveraging the existing resources and services available in the community.
The result of this unprecedented collaboration was the birth of the Human Services Campus – a one-stop “gateway” to self-sufficiency for individuals by allowing them to address their basic needs (food, shelter, and medical care) and access services to address the causes of their homelessness including substance abuse, serious mental illness, lack of employment, domestic violence, legal difficulties, and poor physical health or disabilities.
In early 2005, a pilot program was launched co-locating multiple service providers in one location in “The Zone”. For the first time ever in our community, individuals experiencing homelessness were able to access a variety of services under one roof. The pilot proved that co-location could increase service connections for individuals and subsequently, could improve outcomes for each individual.
The success of the pilot carried over to the newly built Human Services Campus. Upon opening in November of 2005, projections of 200 individuals coming to seek services were exceeded when a crowd of over 500 individuals showed up overwhelming and thrilling staff. The original campus agencies included: Central Arizona Shelter Services, Ecumenical Chaplaincy for the Homeless, Healthcare for the Homeless, NOVA Safe Haven, St. Joseph the Worker, St. Vincent de Paul.
Since that time the Human Services Campus has grown to serving over 1,000 individuals every day through over 60 agencies, classes, peer groups, programs, resources, services, volunteer opportunities, and workshops.