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Cactus Community: Poverty & Pandemic


“The shanty towns that have the area directly west of downtown Phoenix overrun with tents inhabited by those who need help but cannot find it. There is another element at work of people using people; those in need are often preyed upon by the social ills that inhabit all cities.”

The cities of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe all carry the weight of homelessness. As a country, we are in a state of emergency in regards to not spreading a global pandemic. We are at an intersection that has many crosses, including how one side will affect the other. One problem will influence another, and we are at a place of finding a solution so that we better our situation as a people. An example of this is our own Mike Cassini being attacked and breaking his hip and femur. Accosted by a homeless man and his dog while Mikey was out jogging with his own dog; it landed our captain in the hospital facing emergency surgery. We all held our breath as he was there, injured, but were relieved to see him returned to us, well. His experience is rife with the stigma facing homelessness, while he also had to face healthcare providers actively battling a pandemic. I could only hope that he will see where we are headed if we do not work to correct one problem to the benefit of the other.

Life in Downtown Phoenix can be many things, but easy would not be an adjective that comes to mind immediately. I have lived near or in downtown, off and on since moving to Phoenix. I’ve rented from or shared residence with every sort of person just as I’ve lived alone. I have seen the city build, change, and grow in ways most people couldn’t understand even if explained through my lens of life. I love and welcome this city with all its calm, chaos, and change but it still challenges me in ways I could not imagine. I moved to Madison Street near 7th avenue close by CASS (Central Arizona Shelter Services) because I did not mind the location or price to rent in the area. I now live adjacent to every major venue in Phoenix, as well as several dispensaries and other fixtures of art all within walking distance. Living here and in Midtown Phoenix, I learned quickly the area and the expectations that come with it. Knowing and living here could not have prepared me for the strain of this city on its populace in poverty, or its handling of this group during the pandemic.

Having been here for over a year now, I can tell you Madison and its surrounding area look nothing like it did last year. Our street has been subject to a rejection or inability to facilitate the amount of people in need by local services, while a criminal and drug element has rooted itself in our streets. The shanty towns that have the area directly west of downtown Phoenix overrun with tents inhabited by those who need help but cannot find it. There is another element at work of people using people; those in need are often preyed upon by the social ills that inhabit all cities. The result is an area that if impacted by the covid-19 virus, will result in mass casualties of those most in need of help. A coalition led by Angela Ojile has formed and is actively fighting for people to be treated as such; the Madison Pioneers Coalition is made of several residents and businesses working to provide safety, care, and a place for these people to get help.

People like Angela are sick of the compliant behaviors of the city, allowing the residents as well as businesses to be affected without any aid. In doing so, we see the people who need the most help face the biggest challenges. If we are seeing a trend with places like San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans, we know as a city we face bodies literally in the streets. To work to prevent this, we need the city to provide for those most in need, City of Phoenix this is a call for you. I can only hope that you head this call and find yourselves in the middle of what as a nation we face together. The ability to work together and help those most in need is required, and we are willing to provide feedback. Be it in the form of what people need, who those people are, and why our area is working to prevent a disaster. We are actively working to find a solution so that our streets are safe, as well as the people in them.

Those people are our citizens, our residents in need, and those who run businesses. The city, if facing a global pandemic right now, needs to account for all outcomes and all those in need. In doing so, they accept their responsibility as our government, and we as taxpayers have some say. The call to arms extends to our voters working to support the people in charge who use our tax dollars to make these changes. I would hope that we will find ourselves in a better place as a society at the end of quarantine but we won’t achieve this with compliance and lack of understanding. Just as businesses facing the struggles of the area, we must accept the struggles of the people we help as well. If possible, take a drive by CASS on Madison to see for yourself the dangers of day to day life for a sizable portion of those most in need. Be well, stay healthy, and if able to support those affected directly or indirectly by the circumstances.




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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