Corie Billingsley often sees people at the lowest points in their lives.
She is the director of A New Leaf, a Mesa-based nonprofit that helps families navigate the many challenges that come with homelessness and pave the way to a future where their next meal or bedtime doesn’t matter .
Billingsley told The Arizona Republic that keeping families together is a top priority for A New Leaf, since other places only serve men or women or children of a certain age. There are also evasion programs for people who are not yet homeless but are likely to be at risk of eviction.
“How do we take you to a financial plan and a housing stability plan to take you to your next step,” Billingsley said. “The main goal is to break up families and, if possible, to prevent this. Keeping dad at home, keeping dad and mom together, showing the kids this is a problem, but you have a community that’s behind you.”
A New Leaf is one of several nonprofit organizations supporting families struggling with homelessness with contributions from the Arizona Republic’s Season for Sharing campaign. Last year, donors gave $1.8 million to 164 charities across the state, including A New Leaf, which received $30,000. Other Season for Sharing grants to support the homeless were:
- $30,000 to Child Crisis Arizona, which serves 300 homeless children and youth in the child welfare system and trains and supports 370 foster and adoptive parents.
- $25,000 to Central Arizona Shelter Services, which provides shelter and case management for more than 500 family members and children affected by homelessness.
- $10,000 to the Phoenix Rescue Mission to provide beds, meals, recovery from life-threatening conditions and a case manager to find permanent housing for 250 homeless women and women with children.
- $7,500 for Arizona Housing to provide food for ultra-low-income, formerly homeless, elderly adult residents.
GIVE NOW: Visit sharing.azcentral.com to give Season for Sharing a gift.
Billingsley said homelessness can be particularly difficult for children, who are asked to keep up with schoolwork without knowing where their next meal will be.
“They probably can’t think,” Billingsley said. “And they probably don’t worry about sharing — that of a math problem — if Mom didn’t get them dinner. That’s just the reality. And then we label them a problem child because they kind of just sit there and aren’t engaged. Well, who knows what they’re thinking right now? Who knows what they saw last night?”
Billingsley said Arizona requires that A New Leaf inform families seeking help that it has an obligation to report sightings of physical or emotional abuse of children, which can fuel fears among parents who fear they may lose custody of the child lose their children when they seek help.
“We have to let them know, but the first thing they say is, ‘Are you going to take my kids away from me?'” Billingsley said. “No, we won’t say that. We just have to let you know by law. But no, it is not our intention to take your children away from you. Our intention is to help and support you. Being homeless doesn’t mean you can’t take care of your child – it means you need help to take care of your child.”
The 2022 Sharing Season beginsThe 2022 Season for Sharing begins, continuing the legacy of helping those in need in Arizona
Billingsley said A New Leaf follows the “Housing First” approach, which the National Alliance to End Homelessness describes as “providing sustainable housing for people living with homelessness, thereby ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which to reach personal goals.” pursue and improve their quality, defines life.”
Billingsley said sometimes the best solution for a family is to pick up a payment for a daycare or car repair so a family member can commute to work or ride Lyft to homeless court and make sure they’re enrolled in social programs without important deadlines to miss.
“It’s a whole support system that needs a little overhaul and everyone needs to be on board.”
Stigma of the homeless and homelessness also present challenges when it comes to proposing solutions. Billingsley said many people suffer from NIMBYism, which stands for “Not in my backyard,” a position where someone theoretically supports affordable or transitional housing, but not when they’re close to where they live.
She said many people often associate homelessness exclusively with disheveled individuals holding a sign on a street corner or pushing a shopping cart down the sidewalk.
You don’t see the saleswoman sleeping in her car in the back of a parking lot because the soaring cost of living in the Valley is exceeding her income, nor the sociable college student couch surfing through her circle of friends because they have nowhere else to go .
Billingsley said A New Leaf welcomes tax-deductible donations and volunteer applications on turnanewleaf.org and encourages people to support those less fortunate. She also commended other organizations like UMOM New Day Centers, Family Promise and The Salvation Army – All Season for Sharing grantees – as they and others work to end homelessness.
“It’s a huge problem,” Billingsley said. “We can solve it if we all work together, but it’s everyone’s business. It’s not one city above another – it’s a community thing. And we all have to pull together to fix the problem.”
How to donate to Season for Sharing
With the help of Republic readers, Season for Sharing has raised and gifted nearly $72 million to Arizona nonprofits since 1993.
to give ways
- Fill out the secure online form at sharing.azcentral.com.
- Text “SHARING” to 91-999 and click the link in the text message.
- Go online to facebook.com/seasonforsharing and look for the post DONATE HERE.
- Attach coupon to page 4A of The Arizona Republic, complete and mail to PO Box 29250, Phoenix AZ 85038-9250.
- Scan the QR code with your smartphone camera, click the link to donate.
- Make a donation when you purchase tickets to Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden. dbg.org.
Where is the money going?
When you donate to Season for Sharing, you help nonprofit organizations that support education, feed the hungry, and serve families in need and older adults. The Republic assumes all administrative costs, so that 100% of donations go back to the community.
Reach reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PerryVandell.