Inspiring Women on a Mission is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity in Tolleson, Arizona. The focus of our efforts is to help fight and alleviate the realities in our communities within Maricopa County that contribute to hunger, financial hardship, and homelessness. This includes helping victims of domestic violence to have what they need to start over on their own. We offer small item donations such as sack lunches, water bottles, blankets, hygiene items, household items, Thanksgiving meals for homeless, toys for children, and easter baskets on Easter.
Changing lives for a better outcome of life.
Inspiring Women on a Mission began as a group of women who decided to help others in their community as we noticed the stark increase in homelessness in all of Maricopa County. This coincided with identifying a huge gap in service provided for women who were leaving domestic violence shelters lacking basic necessities to start their new homes and futures. After volunteering in our community without any formal association established, we decided to officially become a 501(c)(3). We received our IRS designation in September 2020. Our initial effort started with yard sales, raffles, and taking donations online to help us procure items to contribute to those in need in our community. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the rise in need, which continues to grow to this day. To date, we have helped more than 1,000 people in Maricopa County. We have an 18-month road map goal to help us expand this outreach to attempt to meet the growing needs of the increasing homeless population and other vulnerable populations in our community. This map includes partnerships with six shelters, increasing our volunteer base size, and obtaining physical office space and a vehicle to help transport the donations to those we serve. Our goal is to serve 2,000 people by 2024.
Our accomplishments in 2021 included serving 200 homeless recipients with a hot Thanksgiving meal. We also held a blanket drive to help keep them warm during the cold winter nights. We held a toy drive and served 150 children with toys, snacks, candy stockings, and backpacks. We also donated backpacks to the City of Tolleson’s “Adopt a Family for Christmas” and served four children within one family who needed school supplies.
Statistics of those served in 2021 include 150 children and 200 adults (50% of which were single mothers). We do not discriminate based upon age, sex, race, or ability. Many of those we serve are women with children who are taking the next steps in their lives after being housed in domestic violence shelters. The demographics of the homeless population and children served vary considerably.
Geographic Area Served
Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix, Tolleson, Laveen
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness documented that there were an estimated 10,979 people experiencing homelessness in the state of Arizona as of January 2020. These numbers were cited by reports from Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Out of that total, 809 were families, 921 were veterans, 633 were unaccompanied young adults (18-24) and 2,086 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. As of January 2020, Arizona had an estimated 10,979 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that Total, 809 were family households, 921 were Veterans, 633 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 2,086 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness…The U.S. Department of Education reports from the 2018-2019 school year estimated 21,062 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 602 students were unsheltered, 2,462 were in shelters, 1,975 were in hotels/motels, and 13,307 were doubled up.
According to ABC15 Arizona, as of April 27, 2022, Maricopa County’s eight domestic violence emergency shelters were beyond capacity. The 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline for Maricopa County receives anywhere between 900-1,400 calls per month. The available bed count in the county is 420, and those numbers were forcibly decreased by 35% due to the pandemic. Issues relating to housing costs are keeping those who are able to manage shelter bedding from securing independent housing and thus keeping them in the shelter longer.
As of January 24, 2022, 9,026 people in Maricopa County were experiencing homelessness. This is almost twice as many as were documented in 2016. In 2016, Maricopa County had 5,702 documented homeless identified on the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count Report for Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care. That number jumped to 7,419 in 2020. In 2022, they found that 65% of the population identified male, 35% identified as female, and 1% identified as either transgender, gender non-conforming, or questioning. 78% were over the age of 25, children between 0-17 represented 14% of those documented, and those between 18-24 represented the remaining 8%. 550 families were identified.
The evidence suggests that there are consistently increasing numbers of new homeless people each year. The increase of 3,324 additional homeless (62% increase) since 2016 is concerning. The number of chronically homeless has significantly increased by 119% from 2015-2020. The numbers in Maricopa County are now approaching the state-level numbers for all of Arizona only two years ago. The lack of shelter beds for domestic violence victims is also feeding this trend. It is hard for domestic violence victims to find affordable housing, let alone find the resources to furnish a home when they do find one.
Although our organization is new, we are doing our best to help with the smaller issues to make this monumental challenge less difficult. There are many organizations in the area that are doing their part to assist with this issue, and we work in conjunction with them when we can. The organizations that also address the issues include AZcend, Hope for Hunger, The Andre House, Joshua Tree Funding, AZ Coalition, Homelessness Encampment Partners, yet there aren’t many resources available for the domestic violence victims as they leave the shelters. The organizations we collaborate our efforts with include: A New Leaf, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Amanda’s Hope, and Sojourner. The last two organizations are an active focus for future partnerships.
Queen For a Day
Every three months, we provide supplies to women who are graduating from their domestic violence shelter programs. The items we provide vary from toiletries, clothing, household supplies, and small furniture. The shelter staff notify us of the woman they have chosen to receive our assistance. On the chosen date, we have the chosen one complete a wish-list for any items they would like assistance with as they complete their transition to independence. Our service gives her royal treatment, by rolling out the red carpet on her scheduled departure day, escorted and crowned, they are encouraged with words of wisdom and given many of the gifts that they requested. We celebrate them as they open their gifts. The items range from new and used, often donated as in-kind gifts from various local organizations, stores, or private donors.
Feed The Need
Once a month, we serve the homeless population in various areas throughout Maricopa County. This often includes sack lunches, bottled water, and blankets during the winter months. We also offer hot Thanksgiving meals during the week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. During the Christmas holiday season, we perform a toy drive in order to donate toys to the children and food cards for their parents. The outreach is performed in various locations, including: A New Leaf, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Bonsall Park, the downtown Phoenix encampment, and Folley Park
We have an open enrollment period two months before Christmas and Easter for children to sign up on our website to receive toys, school supplies, and gifts. We also buy gift and food cards to give to the families. Our toy drive event volunteers dress as Elves and we hire a volunteer Santa to hand the gifts to the children during the Christmas event, and we hold a similar Eastern Bunny Event where children are given Easter Basket gifts and food cards. Both events include photos, games, and an atmosphere that inspires joy in the children.
At this time, our impact is limited due to resources available, but we do consistently serve one woman or family every three months at A New Leaf and the Phoenix Rescue Mission. Our homeless encampment outreach occurs once a month at Folley Park, Bonsall Park, and the downtown Phoenix encampment. Our Thanksgiving meal outreach is chosen by the size of the homeless encampment. We try to fulfill the location with largest need. Our volunteers cook the food the day prior to the outreach date. The outreach campaign is one week prior to Thanksgiving. We often serve up to 800 individuals during this effort. Blankets and clothing are given until supplies are exhausted.
Impact on the community
To date, we have served well over 1,000 people in our community. We do gather information and data from the shelters we serve, as well as feedback from those who volunteer, collaborate with us, and from those who have received our assistance. We collect information via surveys at the shelters and the holiday events. The feedback we have received has been very supportive of our efforts and inspires us to continue our mission and strive to do more each year.