The rising tide of need in Scottsdale ought to shape local conversations

One of our feature articles this month is focused on outreach, new and emerging trends Scottsdale social services officials are experiencing and what is being done about the issues facing the most vulnerable of the community.

Terrance Thornton

Two themes driving the conversation around outreach efforts and those who deliver those services is the rising tide of need that is ever present and something that is new: a lack of affordable housing in south Scottsdale.

Numbers show more are seeking Scottsdale social services meanwhile the national and local economies are in full swing — a far cry from the doldrums of the Great Recession just a few years ago.

What we didn’t include in this month’s feature article was the conversations I had with other social services professionals around the city focused on what causes poverty and if their efforts make a difference.

The line of questioning brought two distinctive reactions.

The first, outreach officials overwhelmingly believe they are making differences in the lives of those who they care for, but readily admit — on a larger scale — a solution to poverty and the issues that accompany it are nowhere in sight.

The second, which elicited a wide range of responses, was a more perplexing response illustrated by myriad factors impacting every level of the socioeconomic spectrum.

But make no mistake about it, the numbers are sobering.

In fiscal year 2014-15, Vista Del Camino made contact with 25,739 human beings who sought either services directly there or at a partner agency. Two years later, that number has doubled to a staggering 34,522 reported contacts.

But despite these numbers and similar ones at the Paiute Neighborhood Center outreach officials there say they are making a difference.

“I think so, I really do,” said Anna Valadez, a recreation coordinator at Paiute. “That’s why I am here. I see families coming in here and we are helping them turn it around.”

While Ms. Valadez says she is there to help those in need, she is also steadfast in her assertion the true power to transform a person’s life is born within them.

“I am against enabling our families,” she said while having a group discussion at Paiute. “I am for empowering our families.”

Officials at Paiute are also seeing substantial increases to those seeking assistance.

“For example, we have documented a 51 percent increase in the number of low- to moderate-income clients seeking food boxes,” said Joanne Meirdirks, the human services manager at Paiute. “In the second half of fiscal year 2016-17 we provided 51 food boxes and in the first half of fiscal year 2017-18 we provided 113.”

The reason for why poverty exists and why some of us are afflicted with the experience escapes everyone I have ever asked the question to — on the record, or off.

This is a problem we all should be striving to end because in the United States of America — the greatest nation Planet Earth has ever seen — it’s completely unnecessary.

I do not know what the solution is, but I do know where you can go locally to help:

  • To learn more about how you can help the efforts at the Vista Del Camino Community Center call 480-312-2330.
  • To learn more about how you can help the efforts at the Paiute Neighborhood Center call 480-312-2529.

Where many believe to be one of the most affluent communities in the country many of our fellow human beings are struggling to make ends meet — we can do better.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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