Legacy Grant From First Congregational Church of Tempe Benefits I-HELP Program


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Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA) is the recipient of a $500,000 grant from the First Congregational Church of Tempe, United Church of Christ (UCC) Million Dollar Legacy Fund. UCC had been a 10-year partner and host site for TCAA’s I-HELP (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program), Tempe’s only homeless shelter program. When the church recently closed its doors and sold its property, it could no longer serve as an I-HELP host site, but its support continues through this legacy grant that will enhance specific aspects of the program.

In partnership with the local faith community, I-HELP provides emergency shelter, meals, case management, housing placement services, workforce development, and life skills training for more than 560 men and women annually. I-HELP operates in Tempe seven nights per week, 365 days a year.

A unique and cost-effective model, I-HELP saves tax dollars by engaging the faith community on behalf of the homeless. Eleven area churches provide safe overnight sleeping space for up to 40 men and women at a time, and community groups and congregation members provide daily meals. Participating congregations serve as host sites ranging from once a week to once per month. TCAA provides a mobile shower unit, “Shower Power,” so that clients can maintain proper hygiene, an invaluable tool in gaining and maintaining employment.  TCAA also provides intensive case management services to assist each individual to resolve the issues that have prevented him/her from finding or maintaining stable housing. 

Grant funds cannot be used for existing staffing or operating expenses. Rather, it will provide for:

  • Self Sufficiency Funds that provide direct assistance to clients to overcome barriers to entering permanent housing. Examples include tools and uniforms for work, job training and housing deposits.
  • A new shower trailer to replace aging equipment.
  • A mobile laundry trailer that will allow clients to do their laundry at the I-HELP sites.
  • A diesel truck capable of pulling this heavy equipment.
  • A Housing Navigator staff position responsible for expediting permanent housing placements for I-HELP clients.
  • Establishment of an I-HELP First Congregational Church Legacy Reserve Fund to ensure the future sustainability and growth of the program in Tempe.

“TCAA is so grateful for this generous gift that will allow us to acquire these much-needed tools to better assist I-HELP clients in regaining their self-sufficiency,” notes Deborah Arteaga, TCAA executive director. “It doesn’t diminish our need for City and community support of Tempe’s only shelter resource for men and women, but it clearly will enhance our efforts.”

“It is our hope that when others learn of this grant, they will recognize the importance of I-HELP and the shelter, food and guidance it provides,” says Jean Behrens, ad hoc chair, Legacy Fund, and chair of missions and service activities for the church. “It is hoped that our example will be repeated by other groups and fund raisers to help reduce the homeless population in Tempe. Asking the homeless to be invisible is not a realistic solution to the problem.” 

Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA) offers supportive services to individuals and families striving for greater economic stability and self-sufficiency. We help those who are struggling to obtain adequate food and shelter, as well as seniors and disabled adults working to attain their highest level of independence. Acting with financial support from the community we serve, TCAA operates a food pantry, three senior centers, aging programs, the Tempe Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (I-HELP), pre- and post-natal services, two community gardens, and other projects and programs that serve our most vulnerable residents. For more information, please visit www.tempeaction.org.

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