The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) has 137 offices around the state, and serves some 2.2 million people. Many of those live in remote areas, and getting to an office isn’t easy due to issues like distance from a local office or lack of transportation. Recognizing the challenges many rural residents face, DES decided to go to them, and in August 2016, DES ON THE GO became a reality.
Family Assistance Administration colleagues Dannessa Rowe and Kimberly Gonzales
Linda Hampton, Executive Director of the Marana Food Bank
A mobile program, DES ON THE GO involves two sport-utility vehicles that transport Division of Benefits and Medical Eligibility (DBME) Family Assistance Administration (FAA) employees, their laptops and other equipment to remote locations in northern and southern Arizona. The FAA Program Service Evaluators (PSE) set up tables and tents to assist people with applications and interviews for food and cash assistance as well as health care needs.
Six months after the launch of the program, DES ON THE GO has served nearly 300 clients in thirteen rural Arizona communities. The DES Office of Community Engagement expects those numbers to grow over the next couple of months as they continue outreach services in the rural areas.
The Marana Community Food Bank is one of the DES ON THE GO stops in Southern Arizona. It’s welcomed with open arms by Executive Director, Linda Hampton, who knows many of her clients have other needs, but would never be able to make the 15-mile drive into Tucson.
“They either wouldn’t have gas money, or they wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a downtown office,” said Hampton. “Also, many people are working two or three jobs and wouldn’t even have time to do that.”
At least once a month now, DES ON THE GO sets up outside the Marana food bank. At first, client traffic was a little slow. Hampton says even though she knows many of her clients have needs other than food assistance, it’s taken some time for them to ask for other help. She says they’re vulnerable and some are wary of government assistance. Others are reluctant to admit they have needs other than food, and some just don’t want to lose their place in line.
“By [DES] being here month after month, and having us talk with them about it, I think they’ll become more comfortable with the idea of meeting the DES folks and getting that extra help,” says Hampton.
PSE, Kimberly Gonzales, has noticed clients warming up to them with each visit.
“[We’re able] to tell them, ‘we’ll be here once a month,’ and they ask, ‘what do I need to bring, and when are you going to come out?’” said Gonzales. “Once we get the word out, we’ll be able to get more interviews here.”
Signage and outreach in both English and Spanish have helped to inform those who visit the Marana Community Food Bank, which has plans to eventually give DES a permanent home. Construction on two portable offices that could house DES employees (essentially making it a DES on the Spot location) is set for May. DES would be available every weekday the food bank is open.
The goal, Hampton says, is to shorten the line, not serve the line, and having DES at the food bank is part of that plan.
“It has just helped us to think outside the emergency food box, if you will,” said Hampton. “We know that our folks have additional needs, so with your [DES] help, we’re just starting to say, ‘let’s connect with those who can help them’.”
Below is a list of DES ON THE GO location stops for both Southern and Northern Arizona:
- Amado Community Food Bank
28720 S Nogales Hwy
Amado, AZ 85645
- Bowie Food Bank - Rural Accent Inc.
219 W Bus Loop I-10
Bowie, AZ 85605
- Cliff Whetten Clinic
Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc.
10566 N Hwy 191
Elfrida, AZ 85610
- Marana Community Food Bank
11734 W Grier Road
Marana, AZ 85653
- Green Valley Community Food Bank
250 E Continental
Green Valley, AZ 85614
- Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Station
630 County Hwy 91
Littlefield, AZ 86432
- Colorado City Town Hall
25 S Central St
Colorado City, AZ 86021
- Fredonia Town Office
25 N Main St
Fredonia, AZ 86022
- Inscription House Chapter
PO Box 5214
Tonalea, AZ 86044
- Kaibab Paiute Tribal Office
1 Pipe Springs Rd
Fredonia, AZ 86022
- Red Valley Chapter House
PO Box 304
Red Valley, AZ 86544
- Shonto Chapter House
PO Box 7800
Shonto, AZ 86054
- Teec Nos Pos Chapter House
PO Box 106
Teecnospos, AZ 86514
For more location information on DES ON THE GO, including dates and times, please visit our DES ON THE GO website.