Homelessness in Phoenix Arizona

How we plan to give back to the community and help people in the Phoenix Valley out of homelessness

Now if you live in Scottsdale, Chandler, or Gilbert you likely don’t see as many, but if you live in Downtown Phoenix as I do, or if you have ever been there, or to any big cities downtown then you’ve probably been approached by someone with frayed, dirty, stained clothing with a tan seared onto their face and forearms who is asking you for money, food, or booze.

Every one of them has a story to tell, well, even you have a story tell. However, often their story has more depressing and sad moments than yours or mine. Not to discount the struggle you and I deal with, but with these people, it just seems like at every corner, since the begging of their lives, they have gotten the ass end of the donkey. Yes, they made the choices to get them to where they are, but most started in poverty with parents that didn’t or couldn’t educate them effectively. Thus, they never learned positive reinforcing habits, and since they kept getting screwed over time and time again, they continue to believe and reinforce the belief that their life will just always be miserable. It also doesn’t help when our society doesn’t and often can’t provide the support needed to shift their mindset and reintegrate them into the kind of everyday lives you and I live.

This is something I realized as a young child. Since I was about 9 my dad and I would help our neighbour feed the homeless with their church, typically on Super Bowl Sunday. Yeah, to be honest, I wasn’t ever too pleased about that, and my dad is such a football fan I’m surprised he would even do go. None the less, we would pile in the car and help Tom, the neighbor, buy food at Costco and then head over to the church to prepare it and serve it to all the homeless.

It was always interesting to witness how each person would react differently. How some would get clever and come back for seconds and thirds to store up for later. I always felt for the children who didn’t choose that life but were born into it and had to struggle unlike I ever had. While working there though I would see the same people year in and year out, and began to realize that although this did help them for that day, it wasn’t a long term solution. Sometimes it would even feel just like a kind of rouse for wealthier people to trick themselves into thinking they were helping so they could feel better about their own lives and feel good about doing something they were told is a “good” deed.

Now again, let me be very clear, what we did had a positive effect, but did it have a net positive effect? Was it lasting? I felt like it wasn’t since the same people would be back the next year, just as much as they needed food, if not more, those people needed help getting out of their current situation.

I thought about that a lot, and I’m not sure at what age exactly I arrived at that conclusion but it was likely around the age of 14. What needed to happen, I realized, was that these people that have just been beaten down, ignored, and cast to the side needed to be taught how to fish.

We all know the parable, give a man (woman, transperson, they, them) a fish feed them for a day, but teach a [insert gender pronoun] to fish feed them for a lifetime. These people needed to be taught how to fish, well not actually how to fish, more how to reconstruct their perspective on life and themselves.

So I always promised myself (and them silently) that I would one-day earn enough money to solve the root causes of the homeless problem and, essentially, teach them to fish.

Something you can do now

More on that in a minute, really quickly I’d like to tell you about one way I’ve taught some homeless to fish, and a way you can help do it too. When a homeless person approaches you asking for money, instead of just giving them some money (something I’m not against), but if you don’t feel like it ask if they will take advice as an alternative form of payment. 

When I did this once, it was really rewarding because he was like, “hell yeah man! Tell me,”

so I gave him a little lesson and taught him basic economics. 

I said, “in our society, we believe in a form of exchange, people don’t want to give things away for free. So, instead of asking people if they have spare change to give, ask them if you can give them something in exchange for a dollar. Like a joke, or a hug, or a smile.”

Right away it clicked for him, he got very excited and ran off right away to try it.

Him to a cute girl, “Hey! Can I give you a dollar for a hug?”

Okay so maybe the hug wasn’t the best idea, but she said “sure, but I don’t need a hug,” 

probably to get him away, which in my book is still a fair exchange. He hugged her anyway.🤷🏾‍♂️

You get the point though, he just needed a tip to set him apart and I bet that strategy alone could gross him $10-$50 dollars a day and people would potentially feel better about giving him money!

The Vision

Okay, let’s get back on track now, p[art of the reason I felt so in tune with starting uprelief was because I could build out the vision and follow through on the agreement I made with myself as a kid. I aim to hopefully do it similarly to the way Toms Shoes did it, where they donate one pair of shoes to a kid in Africa for every pair bought.

So, in line with Toms model, I want to set aside a portion of every sale to go towards building a living structure to help these people have a home, gain a basic, but vital education that they never received before, and then reintegrate them into society, not only just as workers, but hopefully as fulfilled workers on a path towards doing something they enjoy and love doing.

An architecture group I believe we will be able to learn a lot from is Brooks and Scarpa’s work on The Six which has done something similar by providing veterans with free housing. They did some amazing work on energy sustainability, as well as developing and designing the entire project.

This isn’t the grand vision for the company, I have two more phases on top Phase 1, the current phase that I’m working on now. I probably won’t talk much about them to limit possible confusion, however I wanted to talk about this because I care about it, and want people to know their money isn’t just going into my pockets or the pockets of my employees, but to something that will benefit the wealthy as well as the disenfranchised.

The Structure

So the general concept is to create a building (eventually buildings) that are elegantly and simply designed, but use minimal recourses and ideally reused resources. My initial idea was to take the plethora of cardboard getting thrown out and find a way to fashion that into a frame, then spray on some of this fire retardant foam and insulation. Then to minimize the need for furniture each one of their rooms would have a bed frame, desk, and frame for a closet constructed into the room. I may just 3D print the houses, but we’ll see what the best way is when I gather a brilliant team to work on it.

Continuing, we would partner possibly with a company like Tuft and Needle to supply the mattress, a cabinet company to supply the doors to the closets, and a furniture company to supply a chair to the desk, which we might built-in. The more that’s built in the less that can get damaged in the possibility of a freakout. Bathrooms would be shared like a dorm, which I fear may become an issue. However, hopefully with a sense of ownership and nudges that won’t become too much of a shit show.

We will also need to largely take energy consumption into account. That’s something we already have big plans to work on, and will hopefully be able to save a bunch of money by taking what we learn building other communities and applying it to these ones. Solar, hydroelectric, and biofuels are all options we are considering to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.


Each room would also have sheets and a laptop with wifi provided to help them connect and find jobs. The laptops would likely be locked into the desk to prevent theft, but possibly we could work out a deal with Google or someone who would just gift us a few thousand. All of this is speculative and will have to be figured out when we have the funds to get started. There may be other amenities like a sauna, cold bath, gym, and grassy area to relax. We do want them to know we care about their health and well being, and that this isn’t just another halfway home, or shelter to stay at. It’s truly theirs until we can help them to the next step up.One of the biggest issues that keep people homeless is just not having an address, so now that they would have an address and a mailbox, they would be able to get a job, bank account, and other necessities to navigate life in our society.


We will have a few people staff the building to assist with their transition, the eduction which I’ll talk about in a few, as well as managing the building. These people will have to be pretty damn skilled, it will be a tough, yet rewarding job. Very few people can say they helped someone out of homelessness, and those people they helped will likely never forget it.


At first, we won’t be able to take everyone on, certain people will be much more difficult and high risk to the support. So there will have to be an initial selection process. Eventually, we may be able to develop a different building/system that helps people in different states. Such as those who are severely mentally ill needing extra attention.

It wouldn’t be free to live here. This gives them a real sense of ownership and value, as well as provides the program with an income. However, It would only cost $20-$50 dollars a month which most people can come up with begging for 1 week.


There would be 5 main aspects to their education that all of us likely never got, yet could surely have used in high school.

• Mindset and perspective-shifting

• Interpersonal Communication Skills & Emotional Intelligence

• Personal finance

• Habit Formation

• Career Guidance

Part of the agreement to their acceptance into the program would that they would be required to attend these courses and do the work. This way they can reshape their mental states which will allow them to progress and ideally not become homeless again, once they leave our building.

After they have found a job, can support themselves finically and have found a “non-supportive” place to live after what we would hope to be 3-6 months, we would move them into another part of the program that keeps in touch and checks in to ensure that the habits and new behaviours are sticking and they continue to improve. There’s a good chance that once out of the supportive system they revert to old patterns of behavior which is something we HAVE to extensively consider and plan for. We might even be able to provide those that succeed with a job that helps others on their path once they leave the program. It will be reinforcing because it’s a lot easier to talk to someone who was on the same path as you and better understands your struggle. It would also give them the freedom to work from home and set their own schedules.

Oh man, thinking about this gets me pretty darn excited.

However, for the moment, all I can do is focus on what’s ahead of me and handle the tasks at hand. If I don’t succeed at Phase 1, the current Phase, then this will never happen. If you’re as passionate about it as I am and want to see it come to life you can either:

1) Become a client of ours


2) Recommend clients to us, which can put some money in your pocket too! More on our referral program here {LINK}

Have any other ideas? Want to tell me why this won’t work? or do you just want to just grab a coffee? Reach out to me here jp@uprelief.co or on Instagram at @jptaxman24 or on messenger.