Give Thanks

November 17th

{This series of posts is intended to provide practical, easy ways to help your community — regardless of your location. In celebration of Thanksgiving and the pending holidays, may we want less and love more.}

Downtowner in Flag


Last week I met the new executive director of Flagstaff Shelter Services. She’s young, dynamic and, well … pissed. The need for fair, safe, affordable housing this northern Arizona city proves quite the challenge. As Rolling Stone once put it, “Flagstaff is poverty with a view.”


Flagstaff is like many, many cities around the world. There are too few jobs, too many people and a lot of folks living on the street. Flag has a couple big employers, and for everyone, an exhausting combination of white and blue collar jobs to get by. This town could be Golden, Colorado. Kearney, Nebraska. Galway, Ireland. Its poverty and hunger are not unique.

I’m not any more prepared to solve all the factors to this mountain town’s homelessness issue. I can, however, point out a few ways we can all help homeless shelters in any community.

1. Ask. Talk with staff and see what the biggest need is. Flagstaff needs toilet paper. They spend $500 a week now, which is not sustainable for a fragile budget and increasing client lists.

2. Donate without restriction. Sure, we all want our funds to go to program expenses. But someone has to pay for the copy toner too.

3. You’ve got talents your local community shelter needs. Could you mend blankets? Write a grant? Shingle the roof? Don’t be shy. If you can focus your strengths to make the organization better, everyone wins. Be specific when asking to volunteer.

typical Flag

What do we really need this holiday season?


Posted in
Arizona, Community
Follow the comments.

3 Responses

  1. This post reminds me of our trip to shop at the Goodwill in Flagstaff. I can’t remember what we were looking for, but I remember being shocked at the size of the Goodwill store in what on the surface seemed like a very well-to-do mountain resort town.

    I hope you find that toilet paper! And thank you for the reminder (I need them repeatedly) that my family doesn’t need multiple gifts from me nearly as much as local and international charities need my time and money to help truly needy people.

  2. Kelli, thanks for this! I thought I knew what homelessness was about, really…until I started working on the Pathways Project. I. had. no. idea. Really. I sat with a new referral on Sunday during his time at the hospital…instead of doing the assessment, he told me the entire contents of his bag and why he kept each item. He’s from Deer Valley. His parents were millionaires. I got all the information I needed for the assessment from talking story with him.

    So…all of you reading this comment.

    Go, do something. Buy two flats of toilet paper at costco next time and drop one off on your way home. The homeless will be grateful. (my guy kept a roll with about two sheets left “just in case”. He said “I don’t want to be that guy covered in his own poop at the bus stop. Don’t be that guy.”

  3. Kelli:
    Give me a call some time to talk. I have spent the last 1.9 yrs living in Flagstaff and have some insight that may assist you as you work on your passion. You can reach me at HOM, Inc.