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The 16th Annual Statewide Conference on Homelessness

2009 Awards of Excellence Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Black Canyon Conference Center

Going the Extra Mile Geri Boss

Volunteers of the Year Jim and Jill Rich

In Memory of Kevin Collins Outstanding Achievement in Overcoming Homelessness Gary Nuese

Advocate of the Year Wendy White

Policy Maker of the Year Gloria Hurtado

Lifetime Achievement Guy Mikkelson

Geri Boss - Going the Extra Mile Geri Boss has shown tremendous enthusiasm in her fight to end homelessness. She currently works for the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) and has worked with ComCare, ValueOptions and now for The People of Color Network as a Housing Specialist. The population that Geri serves is one of our most vulnerable; the chronically homeless living with a serious mental illness. Throughout theses difficult transitions of RBHA’s, Geri has continued to make sure that the population that she serves does not suffer and they continue to receive housing, food and have someone to advocate on their behalf in any situation. In her work with AZ Behavioral Health Corporation, Geri attends every briefing for our homeless applicants, introduces herself to everyone and offers to help in any way that she can. She often gives advice on locating housing that will meet their needs, tips on budgeting and where to find food boxes among other things to supplement the information that they receive at the briefing. Most of this population has not had a stable place to live in over a year and sometimes it is a difficult process for them to undertake on their own. Geri does all she can to make the transition as easy as possible for these individuals by going above and beyond her job duties, making stops on her way home from work and on weekends to check in on someone to make sure that they are taking their medicine or just to see if they have enough food to eat. Geri NEVER takes “no” for an answer; she knocks on doors to speak to landlords directly, helping them to understand about mental illness so that “her people” as she affectionately calls them can locate housing without the stigma associated with having a mental illness. She also gives landlords her personal cell phone number and tells them they can call her 24/7 if any issues should occur with a tenant. She is never asked to do these things, it is just the type of person that she is. Geri embodies the true spirit of advocate. She is an inspiration not only to the people she works with but to those of us who strive to better our community. She is a living example of the reality that one person truly can make a difference.

Jim and Jill Rich - Volunteers of the Year Jim and Jill Rich demonstrate a remarkable partnership of love, compassion, mutual respect and an abiding concern and dedication for the marginalized men, women and children of Tucson and Southern Arizona. With dedication in their resolve to be change agents in many social justice issues, the Rich’s, working as one, have influenced the lives of hundreds of disenfranchised and underserved people. Although the emphasis of their tireless and devoted service covers a wide variety of issues and challenges that face our less fortunate brothers and sisters, those of us serving the homeless community perhaps remember best the acts of kindness and services provided by Jill and Jim to the homeless. Jill and Jim have extended the spirit of friendship through their congregational faith home – Temple Emanu-El -for 20 years by organizing the congregation of their faith home and other Jewish congregations in providing Project Hospitality beds to 20 men each night for 20 nights each Winter season. Perhaps best know for the briskets she and Jim purchase for their client guests, few realize that on nights of extreme cold they also provide brisket to dozens of homeless in the Operation Deep Freeze shelter. Jill and Jim are tireless in their pursuit of aid and comfort to Tucson’s growing homeless population. They are often the voice of reason and understanding as they represent those who cannot advocate for themselves in times of emergency and crisis. Jill and Jim are involved in repairing our world in countless other activities. Among accomplishments too numerous to mention, Jill founded the American Red Cross Homeless Children’s Health Care; serves on the Jewish Family &Children’s Service and Social Action committee, Temple Emanu-El; and has served as Chair of Tucson Planning Council for the Homeless, the Emergency Services committee of Tucson Planning Council for the Homeless and the Pima county FEMA / Emergency food and Shelter Board. Jim & Jill participate in Project Hospitality and Operation Deep Freeze components of the Tucson Winter shelter Program and work as Casa Maria Soup Kitchen volunteers.

In Memory of Kevin Collins Our nominator writes: “I would like to take some time on this beautiful day to introduce Kevin Collins as the outstanding direct service worker. Kevin was simple and an amazing man. Kevin was a living force. He was a storyteller, always with a smile, friendly hellos and hugs. He was known as the man with the green crate around the Human services campus. From being one of the first staff members who staffed the newly opened LDRC, to working with me on the night shift at the old SVDP building on 9th and Jefferson, when we first opened it for heat relief, Kevin was there to serve. From listening to clients who could not sleep through the nights to pushing clients to the Clinic on an office chair because wheelchairs were in short supply, Kevin found innovative ways to take care of the clients, each and every day. Kevin loved to spoil the clients with his generosity. He taught the clients and his coworkers that it was better to give, than to receive. His love for the work he did was only surpassed by the love and friendship he shared with his family. His life was a practice of his love of justice, inclusiveness, acceptance, and peace. His life was dedicated to the service of others and he paid the ultimate sacrifice in his quest to protect and serve the ones that needed it the most. Thank you Kevin for all that you did, the love that you shared and the lessons you taught us. It will be with us always. Kevin lost his life in a random act of senseless violence, having helped countless numbers of homeless men and women in their quest for self-sufficiency at the Lodestar Day Resource Center campus. We honor him today and will present his family with this gift as reminder of his many gifts he gave to others. Kevin’s family was unable to join us, but asked me to share this... "He was a man who enjoyed working at CASS because he was a strong and caring person. His mind and heart was always directed to assist people who needed his services and to make someone's life a little easier from day to day. Because he had a good heart and not just for the extra money, he frequently volunteered to work for anyone who needed time off. As tired as he was from working all night, he would stay another few hours to help his fellow co-workers who he regarded as his friends. We miss him very much but we celebrate his life with us because he was a compassionate, loving and caring man. He died a HERO. When shots were fired he ran to a clearing where no one else would get hit. The last few moments of his life was to protect others from the bullets that were met only for him. He was not afraid to die, he was only afraid someone else might die too. Remember him for the kind of man he was, devoted to helping people and making a friend with anyone regardless of age or race. We appreciate your words of comfort and prayers and the recognition given to your friend, Kevin Collins.” Thank you, Elaine Collins and family; Kevanda, Devin, Amber, Mira, Myron, Layla and Steven

In Kevin’s honor, we have created the Kevin Collins Award for Outstanding Direct Service Worker which will be awarded annually.

Gary Nuese - Outstanding Achievement in Overcoming Homelessness Gary Neuse came to U.S. VETS – Phoenix in January of 2005 after living on the streets and in shelters on and off for more than 3 years. He was what we refer to as Chronically Homeless. Gary served in the United States Navy from 1971 as a Diesel Mechanic and Engineer Mate and was honorably discharged in 1974. He came to us with all of the barriers and issues we typically deal with among chronically homeless veterans. He had legal issues, fines and warrants, a past history of substance abuse and credit and financial issues. But what Gary also brought with him was a willingness to work and a desire to help. Gary showed up at the Career Center daily just to volunteer for chores to be done. He soon obtained a job at AFH Perry Center working with their mentally disabled adult clients in light production work. After 6 months of successful employment someone noticed there would need to be a background check if Gary was to become a regular full time employee. Because Gary was unable to get the outstanding warrant off his record in time to pass a background check, the Center had to terminate his employment. Gary moved on to become an Americorp volunteer through U.S. VETS and was assigned to Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) as an outreach driver. He made just enough to afford rent in US VETSs – Phoenix housing program. He graduated from US VETS – Phoenix VIP program in March of 2006 and maintained permanent housing for the past 3 ½ years. When his Americorp assignment was completed in 2007, CASS hired Gary and Gary used his Americorp education grant to attend The Refrigeration School, Inc (RSI) where he graduated with honors in Air Conditioning/Refrigeration and Electro-Mechanical Technologies in 2009. He traveled to Southern California this summer when he graduated from RSI to turn himself in and get that warrant off his record. Charges were dismissed and his record is now clean. At this point it looks like Gary has landed a job as a Conveyer and Refrigeration Engineer with Southwest Airlines pending completion of his background check. Gary’s life has moved on to one of economic independence and stability.

Wendy White - Advocate of the Year Winters in Flagstaff can be brutal. For a long time, though, very little shelter was available for homeless people here. About three and a half years ago, Flagstaff Shelter Services was incorporated as a non-profit organization, due almost solely to the determination of Wendy White, chair of the board of directors. For two years, Flagstaff was able to operate temporary shelters. As this temporary solution was neither satisfactory or sufficient, Wendy White submitted grants, filled out proposals, lobbied the city council, applied for variances, called people and wrote letters and argued the case for permanent shelter before an endless number of council and committee meetings. The next winter the city leased Flagstaff Shelter Services, virtually free, a building for use not only for day services, but as an overnight shelter as well. Wendy White found plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, whatever skilled people were needed plus all the unskilled volunteers she could round up. The end result is that Flagstaff Shelter Services was able to do an extensive remodeling job on this building for only 10% of the city's projected costs. Last winter Flagstaff provided 6,088 bed nights and served 7,899 evening meals to the local homeless population. It is not an exaggeration to say that everyone who knows Wendy White is literally amazed by her dedication, perseverance, steadiness, and ability to contend with multiple factions (not all of which are friendly.) Through all the problems and pointless delays, she has maintained her calm and professional approach. She richly deserves recognition and affirmation of her accomplishments.

Gloria Hurtado – Policy Maker of the Year Throughout her long career in human services, Gloria Hurtado’s professional and personal passion for implementing policy initiatives that serve the needs of impoverished Phoenix families is well established. As the Director of the City of Phoenix Human Services Department, she is uniquely positioned to impact thousands of lives in our city. In the current economic downturn, she has challenged her department to seek innovative solutions while operating in this diminishing resource environment. Almost two years ago, Gloria embraced the work of a young nonprofit, Open Table, that had a big vision and an innovative model for how the faith community could be engaged to serve families in need. Through the unique public-private partnership that ensued, the Human Services Department adopted the Open Table Model as a “Best Practice Poverty Transformation Model”. Under Gloria’s direction, the City invested intellectual capital into the growth and development of the Table model, which now operates or is in launch planning in 20 congregations across the city. Additionally, Gloria has been instrumental in the development of Open Table’s Neighborhood Roots System initiative in South Phoenix, where faith communities in targeted, impoverished neighborhoods are given the expertise to create and implement business plans for their neighborhood. As a key collaborative partner in this endeavor, the City of Phoenix, under Gloria’s leadership, has been instrumental in incubating the NRS pilot in South Phoenix, where city services are being delivered in a new and highly cost efficient manner through the faith community. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge Gloria’s role in the creation of the City of Phoenix year round overflow shelter for homeless families and single women. This feat is attributable to Gloria’s passion, compassion and tenacity. This servant leader has worked tirelessly to better the lives of thousands men, women and children through her effective management of City of Phoenix resources. Her commitment to innovation makes her a well deserving Recipient for the Policy Maker of the Year award. Please join me in celebrating this award with Gloria Hurtado.

Guy Mikkelsen - Lifetime Achievement Award Guy arrived in Arizona in 1979 and has provided leadership for ending poverty, hunger and homelessness and social justice since that time. While an administrator at the Department of Economic Security in the later seventies and early eighties he led a statewide effort to develop and implement an emergency services network for hungry and homeless families and people throughout Arizona which still exists today. Guy was on the ground floor in the development CASS and the Human Services Campus. For over 30 years he has been leader in combating homelessness in Arizona and in the Valley serving on CASS board of directors. In 1994, the Arizona Community Action Association dedicated their poverty report to Guy for his advocacy efforts to combat poverty and homelessness in Arizona. Guy was instrumental in starting Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, a premier social justice advocacy organization in Arizona. He has served on many different legislative and governor’s commissions directed at improving social policy and programs for the poor, hungry and homeless. Currently he is chairperson of the Arizona Housing Commission. He currently serves on City of Phoenix Human Services Commission where he is known as strong advocate against hunger and homelessness and improved public policies. He was instrumental in developing the Governor’s Task Force on Aging and legislative and governor’s workgroups on health and human services workforce. Guy’s leadership at the Foundation for Senior Living has brought the agency to the status of a premier affordable housing nonprofit known throughout the state and the country for developing all forms of housing for poor, elderly and persons with disabilities. He is known as one of the most innovative social entrepreneurs in the state focused on serving the most vulnerable elderly and people with disabilities. Guy is also known as loyal friend to many in the community stepping up in personal ways when people experience personal and family crisis.

2100 N. Central Ave., Suite 230 Phoenix, Arizona 85004

Phone: 602-340-9393 Fax: 602-257-8951 Website:

2009 Awards of Excellence  

Photos and background on recipients of the 2009 Awards of Excellence at the 16th Annual Conference on Homelessness, October 26, 2009.