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Cactus Community: Poverty and Pandemic Pt. 2

This is my follow up on an article written last month concerning the challenges of poverty while we face a pandemic, the City of Phoenix has committed to providing relief to the area of Madison Street in Downtown Phoenix. In the time since writing about the homeless encampments that had taken over the area surrounding CASS (Central Arizona shelter services), relief has been provided to those seeking aid, residents, and businesses. The city has taken several measures to both provide aid and protection to the area, while also giving those living or operating business in the area a chance to prevent the spread of a pandemic. A fight taken up by the Madison Pioneers Coalition has had several challenges to overcome, but their drive for change has transformed the environment of Madison and its surrounding area. The area is no longer a lawless gathering area for those who are facing displacement, mental illness, or drug addiction, all of whom might be vulnerable to predators or disease that also inhabits our city. A large push by the Madison Pioneers Coalition, City of Phoenix Officials, and the Phoenix Police department appears to be on the road to success; as a resident I congratulate and thank all parties involved.

The city has committed itself to providing a safe alternative to the residential tents that began populating the easements of properties on Madison. These tents and its inhabitants were turned away from the shelter services for many reasons, primarily a reduction in available beds due to Covid-19. This combined with those facing the daily struggles of illness, mental disorders, or drug addiction made Madison an area of potential disaster during quarantine. The people in these tents had no access to toilets, water or basic sanitation, creating an area that could be ravaged by Covid-19 if it were to be contracted by any of those living in the area. This, in turn, created a safety issue for those of us who rent/own property or work for a business in the area. By walking down the street, you were exposed almost daily to garbage, human waste and drug paraphernalia that could all carry with it the potential exposure to coronavirus. As a community, we called upon our government to change course to prevent a potential disaster in our area.

This has led us to the changes made, and the relief being provided to the people who need it most. So far, two overflow areas have been opened that are designated areas in which those living outside can set up camp. In these areas, toilets, hand washing stations, and water will be provided to those in need, which will be of huge benefit should an outbreak occur. The security of these overflow locations is also an important component, allowing curfews to be enforced and problems like drugs or alcohol to be reported to authorities. This allows the seniors, the mentally ill, and those battling drug dependencies to have a chance to succeed in changing their habits. Testing for Covid-19 is available with health stations and volunteers actively helping those who might be at risk. Had these measures not been taken, the threat of mass infections and casualties was all too real for this area. With these measures, the homeless population has a fighting chance should disaster strike while the City of Phoenix prevents the possibility of bodies on the streets. It might sound like an exaggeration, but be assured that several other large populous cities have faced these challenges of their most vulnerable already, some were well prepared while others were not.

The action taken also protects those of us who live and work in the area as citizens who have expectations of our government. The area outside of my house is no longer a hotbed of drug trade, prostitution, and violent offenders camping on the outside easement. The easements now have a deterrent in the form of metal poles with chains blocking the easements from being settled, and no longer is there a small shantytown in front of our residences or businesses. Cleaning and mass sanitation of the area have removed many of the concerns about the health of those in the area who were being exposed to germs, human waste and garbage. Businesses in the area are no longer closed, nor are they affected by the tents and inhabitants disrupting day to day operations. Gates on the alleyways, as well as increased police presence has cut down on crime, drug trade, and violent crimes in the area.

The community leaders here made these changes, and will continue to work with the city to create humane conditions for those in need, while also protecting their community and its commerce. As a part of this community as well as our MMJ community, we should all take note about how activism, communication, and working together can bring about change. With change on the horizon, we can take this as a lesson to choose our leaders wisely, and know how our tax dollars are being used. I could rest easier knowing that if I had a choice; that my medical cannabis taxes should be going towards programs that provide for those in need while also benefiting my local community.

Recommended Listening: Good Luck by Broken Bells

Adrian Ryan was born in New Mexico and attended school since elementary in Arizona, his time growing up split between the two states. He hopes to work towards recreational cannabis, enjoys reading, writing, film, music, and also writing music.


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