Last month, Michael Brinkman turned the key to his new Glendale apartment. Just like anyone moving into a new place, the 60-year-old was excited. But his modest delight quickly turned to tears of joy as he thanked Phoenix Rescue Mission for helping him find the home after living on and off the streets for the past 15 years, struggling with addiction.
Lost and hopeless, Brinkman used to live his days and nights drinking alcohol and hanging out in public parks, begging for money to feed his addiction. Then, one day he crossed paths with a van full of men at a local park working for Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Glendale Works program, an integrated workforce development program that aims to reduce homelessness in Glendale and put the city’s homeless to work.
Brinkman approached the men in reflective vests and started a conversation. Among those he talked to was Gabe Priddy, who oversaw the workers as part of Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Street Outreach team. Priddy shared a similar story with Brinkman, and the two hit it off.
After joining the Glendale Works program, Brinkman quickly found dignity in the daily work and knew he was in good company. Meanwhile, Priddy and others at the mission began the process of connecting Brinkman with resources to get his life back on track. Nearly one year later, Brinkman has remained clean and is excited to start a new chapter in his life.
“I thank everybody at Phoenix Rescue Mission for not forgetting about me and not giving up on me,” Brinkman said. “I am going to make the best of my life now, and there’s no looking back.”
Like Brinkman, many other homeless individuals are being rescued off the streets at record numbers, thanks to Phoenix Rescue Mission’s expanded Street Outreach team. In fact, the team began as a single van with just one driver nearly 10 years ago but now includes a fleet of nearly 10 vehicles and 19 team members who canvass the streets daily in search of those in need.
This year was the largest mobile presence that Phoenix Rescue Mission had on the streets, and the impact was nothing short of miraculous. The Street Outreach team rescued a monumental 167 men, women and children off the streets since launching its ninth annual Code:Red Summer Heat Relief effort in May through the end of July. The Code:Red campaign has continued to expand year after year, in response to the growing number of homeless individuals dying or becoming seriously ill due to the extreme heat.
This coordinated Street Outreach effort is largely possible because of several public-private partnerships between Phoenix Rescue Mission and local municipalities, including the cities of Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Avondale, Scottsdale and Surprise.
Each municipality works closely with the Mission’s Street Outreach team to identify those in need and connect them with the appropriate solutions to help them re-enter society and reach their potential.
Whether addiction recovery, mental health support, vocational development, food assistance or housing, the Street Outreach vans are available to work with individuals experiencing homelessness at the point of their need or, if necessary, pick up the individuals and transport them to either Phoenix Rescue Mission or an appropriate organization or destination that will serve the needs of that person.
And that’s exactly how Brinkman’s life was changed. In addition to finding a home for him, Brinkman’s case manager, Brian Farretta, helped him get copies of his birth certificate and Social Security card, both of which are required to get a job. Farretta also worked closely with Brinkman to obtain a housing voucher, shop for and locate an apartment, purchase furniture for his new place, and now they are working to find Michael a new job. Farretta even worked it out so the mission could pay for Brinkman’s apartment application fee.
“It just brings joy to my heart to bring Michael into a place like this,” Farretta said. “I’ve known him for a while now, through the Glendale Works program, and he’s always been on time, very studious, punctual and a good representative of himself and the Glendale Works team.”