For nearly a year now, a collaboration has been simmering in the soup kitchens at Genesis Project, melding the capabilities of the United Way of Pinal County (UWPC) and the City of Apache Junction with the homeless and at risk outreach of Genesis.
Genesis Project is a faith-based 501c3 located at 564 N. Idaho Rd. Suite 5, in Apache Junction, across the street from the county complex. The coalition of local churches that makes up the organization have banded together for the common purpose of aiding the less fortunate. Their mission is to feed the hungry and the homeless and to provide opportunities for showers, clothing and medical services. Partnering with United Way and the City, those services are now extending further to help homeless and at risk community members get back on their feet.
“It started with the financial stability classes this past winter, where class members expressed what gaps they were trying to leap over,” elaborated UWPC Executive Director Manuela Rehm-Bowler. “The common denominator was the need for a navigator and a cheerleader in their corner.” In the spring of this year, United Way started going to Genesis Project on Mondays to help people navigate the system in their efforts to access available resources. “We’ve helped people find housing, procure copies of birth certificates, earn their drivers licenses and connect with other resources.
“Out of the Casa Grande homeless conversation [a coalition effort organized by UWPC], grew the idea of a day center,” continued Bowler. “I brought that idea up in Apache Junction; however, there’s no infrastructure to support that sort of venture at the moment. So, Genesis and UWPC felt that having set agencies come on set schedules could at least help people know when and where they can get assistance when they have a problem.”
With the goal defined, Genesis Project made accommodations to stay open longer on Mondays; Apache Junction Grants Administrator Heather Patel reached out to schedule the appropriate agencies and the UWPC coordinated the effort. The new services started September 11, with the Department of Economic Security (child support services) and UWPC offering information, mentoring and general help.
“Today I saw over 10 people in my two hour navigation sessions from noon to 2 pm, and then 4 more individuals came by during the next 3 hours,” explains Bowler. “It was the first time we’ve done this extended day, so the low traffic is somewhat to be expected.”
One of the unique aspects of the Genesis Resource Center is that the social services assistance is available to anyone in the community, not only the homeless or at risk. “Financial and personal hardship is an equal opportunity offender.” Bowler knows this statement to be fact. Her passion for helping others stems from personal experience. “Regardless of how educated you are, the social service maze feels like it requires a PhD. I remember when my family was underemployed, and we attempted to qualify for AHCCCS. The amount of paperwork that was required and the documentation was insane. I have a master’s degree in business, and I’m very tenacious, but we ended up just giving up, because it was so overwhelming. I wish I would have had an advocate who could make some phone calls for me and ask questions to ensure I wasn’t doing it wrong and to give me hope. We gave up and went uninsured. That’s a risky thing to do with three teenage kids depending on their parents to hold the net while they explore their independence. That whole application process left me feeling so inadequate! That memory is what drives me. We become advocates for something when it has become personal for us; when we truly understand the plight of others because we have experienced it.”
Social services programming is offered at Genesis Project on Mondays from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. except on holidays.