The Rev. Gerald Roseberry, a minister for 30 years and Pastor of Camelback Presbyterian Church for 13 years until it merged with another congregation, spent the month of November in 1987, living among the Homeless in Phoenix and Tucson. Rev. Roseberry, an activist, did so to publicize the plight of the homeless. Surprisingly he was readily accepted by the homeless as one of them, and spent his nights on the street or in homeless shelters.
After his month on the street Rev. Roseberry recognized that the most difficult barrier for the homeless person was most often a lack of identification papers. Gathering a few friends around him, he then founded the Ecumenical Chaplaincy for the Homeless Inc. which was incorporated on December 27, 1989. The original purpose was “The Corporation is organized and will be operated exclusively for the purpose of supporting the work of the Ecumenical Chaplaincy among the homeless people of the greater Phoenix area by a ministry of presence, a ministry of advocacy, a ministry of service, and a ministry of Word and Sacrament.” That very purpose remains today!
From 1989 through 2014 the Chaplaincy focused on the service of providing identification documents for homeless citizens, and thanks to the dedication of four succeeding Chaplains, provided identification, spiritual counselling, and occasional religious services for the homeless community.
In 2014, however, the last chaplain resigned and the Chaplaincy was faced with the results of their increasing success of providing identification. They had watched a few hundred pieces of identification each year grow into a few thousand as they improved relationships with state agencies and state governments in all 50 states. In 2014 they had already provided over 5,000 identification documents for the homeless, more than any agency in the 50 states. But the pressures were mounting to focus all efforts on ID procurement, and the Chaplain was replaced by an Executive Director, the name was changed to Homeless ID Project Inc., and efforts were focused on raising the output of IDs to even greater levels. In 2017 for example, over 7,000 documents were provided the homeless.
But something was missing. The faith-based leadership, the personal identification and counselling with the homeless, the personal services aspect for the people were missing. In addition, the Human Services Campus had been growing in downtown Phoenix. This caused the campus leadership to approach the Homeless ID Project Inc. Board of Directors early in 2017, and ask if they could bring back a Chaplain and the faith-based leadership this provides, to the Campus. Homeless ID Project accepted that challenge.
In late 2017, a Chaplain was found, Rev. Ron Friesen, who had been one of the original chaplains, and planning began to reincorporate the “Ecumenical Chaplaincy for the Homeless”.
The first step was to begin offering Chapel Services on Sunday that would become regular by January of 2018. These began in October of 2017 with the help of several chaplains from Scottsdale Bible Church. By December of 2017 regular services were being held in St. Vincent de Paul Chapel. Rev. Friesen began work in earnest in January of 2018 and the corporation was formed on January 18, 2018. The Incorporation papers and by-laws echoed the language of the original Chaplaincy.
The Chaplain has been building relationships on the campus, offering services to the homeless, the staffs, and the volunteers ever since. The official ribbon cutting ceremony was April 12, 2018 in our new offices in the Lodestar Day Resource Center building on the Human Services Campus. Four of the prior Chaplains were in attendance.