CSBG Corner: Coordinating Community Response in Arizona

Edited by Eric Stam

Community Action Agencies often serve as important centers of coordination and service integration when a community takes action. In Arizona, during the summer of 2010, intense heat (Phoenix recorded over 30 days of heat at or over 90 degrees) posed a serious health risk to many individuals and required a regional response. The City of Phoenix Human Services Department, a designated Community Action Agency, helped lead and coordinate that response, to ensure the safety of the public and its employees, and to create awareness of the dangers of heat stress. The following describes some parts of the comprehensive heat relief efforts.

The Heat-Relief Network campaign was kicked-off on May 7, 2010 by the Mayor and television and print stories soon followed about the upcoming plans for the summer and the need for bottled water. This media attention resulted in the planning of many community water drives and the donation of water from the corporate community. As temperatures rose, the media followed the story and continued to air and print follow-up stories through the end of August.

Community agencies provided day respite and additional shelter beds. The Watkins Emergency Shelter, the Human Services Campus Day Resource Center, Central Arizona Shelter Service and the Phoenix Rescue Mission all provided space and services for hundreds of individuals, including homeless individuals to escape the heat. Other community partnerships included helping create and distribute 2010 Heat-Relief Network Fact Sheets. The Arizona Department of Health Services produced a pamphlet entitled “Surviving Arizona Summer Heat” and a Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) map of all hydration, respite, and water collection sites countywide.

St. Mary’s Food Bank and the Watkins Emergency Shelter Program (WESP) served as the water collection and distribution points for corporate donations during the summer months. A total of 158,642 bottles of water were donated to the City for Heat-Relief efforts and activities. Faith-based organizations throughout the metropolitan area also volunteered to provide Hydration Stations, Heat Refuges, and wellness checks for elderly and/or disabled individuals.

When Community Action Agencies use their flexible CSBG funding to support a community wide or regional effort, the result is strong partnerships and increased impact. The City of Phoenix, through the Heat-Relief Network, coordinated a comprehensive response to the intense heat. They worked with many partners, building important relationships and bringing tremendous relief to many people.

Source: Arizona FY 2010 CSBG IS Survey