PHOENIX - The triple digits are back and that means turning on the air conditioning. But the homeless in Maricopa County don't get that luxury, and their stories are both heartbreaking and at times shocking.
ABC15 recently shadowed the Southwest Behavioral Health PATH program. Path stands for Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness.
Southwest Behavioral Health says their goal is get the homeless connected to services that can help them. There are 13 people part of the PATH program. Ten of them hit the streets every day to help the homeless and build relationships with them.
“My team is in the trenches, everyday all day," said Director of PATH Ken Curry. "We are trying to get the homeless into a better place."
During our ride-along with Outreach Specialists Jeremy Huntoon and L.J. Reynolds, we heard countless stories. Huntoon told us about a man he found dressed in multiple layers of clothing in the middle of summer. After time and research, Huntoon found out this man was a Russian National and a very accomplished chemist in Russia.
The man sustained a brain injury in the United States and apparently lost all of his work and documents. Huntoon was able to get the man’s green card replaced, into a shelter and eventually reunited with his family in Russia.
Huntoon has been with the PATH program since 2010. He said a typical day is meeting with homeless clients in the morning and hitting the streets at 10:00 a.m. Reynolds has been with PATH for 12 years.
In the midst of our ride-along, we came across a man who came up and immediately hugged Reynolds. She told us she has seen this man several times, and he keeps coming back for help. Reynolds explains more in the video below:
The second individual we came across was a man limping near the Burton Barr Public Library in downtown Phoenix.
Huntoon and Reynolds stopped and talked with him for a couple minutes, telling him about available shelters and other services. See his emotional reaction in the video below:
Huntoon and Reynolds always bring water and a hygiene kit when they hit the streets. In the hygiene kit is a roll of toilet paper, dental products, soap, socks, underwear, wash cloth and t-shirts.
Both Huntoon and Reynolds said socks and underwear are the biggest needs right now.
They told us the biggest homeless populations right now are in the areas of Sunnyslope, Mesa, Glendale and Tempe, and that the homeless populations drift to changing locations to avoid law enforcement.
As our ride-along continued, Huntoon and Reynolds talked with a man sitting in front of a Sunnyslope-area Walgreens. The man told them he has been looking for a job for years. Huntoon talks about what PATH can do for him in the video below:
At the end of our day with PATH, ABC15 asked Huntoon and Reynolds about the best part of their job.
Huntoon said it's a great feeling to get someone into a home that hasn’t had a home for 25 years. He also told us helping has always been in his nature. He said he would bring homeless people into his home growing up in Chicago and give them food.
Reynolds said, “I feel like I did this before I was ever hired. I always tried to help people less fortunate.”
Donations can be dropped off at Southwest Behavioral Health at 3450 N. Third Street from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information about donations can be found here.