Humanity and Homelessness: The Dr Pepper® Story

March 3, 2020
| by:
Communications and Public Affairs

Homelessness is a complex issue in our community, one that often needs to be addressed from multiple angles with the assistance of trained professionals. Staff in our Neighborhood Resources Department alongside Outreach Navigators work to meet people experiencing homelessness where they are and help them get to what they need most. 

Rori Minor, a Client Services Specialist in the Neighborhood Resources Department at the time of the story, shared a recent experience between her and a client to help highlight the power of Chandler’s city-wide commitment to combating homelessness with both compassion and expertise. 

The Dr Pepper® Story

Change Up Campaign
Rori Minor, City of Chandler

One typical afternoon, Rori answered a call from a City employee concerned about someone who may be experiencing homelessness.

“Based on the employee’s description, an individual was standing outside a City facility asking people for money and speaking incoherently — potential signs that somebody may be experiencing homelessness,” Rori said. 

Through the City’s workforce development program, the employee had taken an optional workshop titled Homelessness 101. Here, she learned the Neighborhood Resources Department employs staff members equipped to handle these cases who can connect people to the resources they need most, such as basic needs, rehabilitation, mental health treatment or housing.

“In situations like this, many of us feel uncertain about how to handle a person experiencing homelessness. Many people want to help but aren’t sure how. This employee took the knowledge they learned from Homelessness 101 and made the right call to get this person help,” Rori said. 

Rori hung up the phone and attempted to dispatch one of the City’s navigators — experienced professionals who work through the treatment organization Community Bridges, Inc. to provide necessary services for people experiencing homelessness. 

Chandler has two dedicated navigators, and at the time of the call, both were dispatched and working with other clients. Not wanting to leave the individual without help, Rori and another trained staff member went into the field to provide basic outreach until a navigator was available to take over. 

“When we found him, he had migrated over to a nearby park,” Rori said. “We introduced ourselves and started to engage him. He was holding a religious text and trying to talk to us about it, but the conversation was unguided and difficult to understand. It led us to believe that this individual had some mental health issues that needed to be addressed.” 

“We sat down with him, got on his level and listened to more about him and his story,” Rori said. “We learned that he had been in Arizona for a long time and had lived with family members for a while. We were able to gather that mental health or substance abuse issues had caused a rift between him and his family, making it difficult to allow him in their home. What ultimately resulted was him ending up on the streets.”

They asked about his history of substance abuse. He admitted to having used in the past but indicated that he did not want to go to a rehab facility. 

“He said he’d thought about it but didn’t want to lose his freedom or feel locked in a room at a facility,” Rori said. “We explained to him how rehab works — that he is free to go at any time — and we could see him start to feel more comfortable.”

Rori and the other staff member asked if they could drive him back to the office to talk some more, and he agreed. 

“We thought if we could get him to agree to 10 percent, maybe he would connect with the navigators and eventually feel reassured enough to go to rehabilitation.”

In the Neighborhood Resources intake room, Rori and staff learned more about his desire to get back on track; however, he was still expressing concerns about giving up his freedom and not being able to do what he wanted. 

“So we asked him, ‘What is it that you want to do?’ and he replied, ‘I just really want a Dr Pepper®.’”

From there, Rori and the team saw their opportunity. They asked him if he would be willing to go to a rehab or detox facility if they brought him a Dr Pepper® — and he agreed without hesitation. 

They walked to Circle K to grab the drink, purchased with funds from the City of Chandler ChangeUp campaign. As they were walking back, a navigator was returning from working with another client and was ready to transport him to a facility.

“He didn’t even wait for us to come back in for him,” Rori said. “He gathered all of his stuff, walked out the door, grabbed his Dr Pepper® and said ‘Let’s go.’”

To the team, it was clear this individual was ready to make a change, but they knew he needed support and reassurance that he will always have choices, even when making a commitment. 

“At that moment, he needed to feel the personal freedom of having one last thing on his terms before making a big step towards getting his life back,” Rori said.

For this individual, a Dr Pepper® was enough to give him the confidence to regain control of his life. 

“It was a great experience,” Rori said. “People need to feel understood, especially when they are vulnerable. And the whole interaction originated from one person attending Homelessness 101 who wanted to handle the situation the right way.”

ChangeUp: Change the Way You Give

ChangeUp the way you give to make a real difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness. By contributing to the City’s ChangeUp Campaign, you can help fund Chandler’s outreach navigators and ensure your hard-earned dollars are supporting long-term solutions.

Your contributions support professional outreach workers who work directly with people experiencing unsheltered homelessness to assist them in obtaining housing and supportive services. Text “ChangeUp” to 44-321 or give online.