Phoenix mixes government and religion at Sky Harbor Airport???
From this article it sounds like the City of Phoenix has been violating the Arizona Constitution and illegally shoveling $7,000 a month to the chapel at Sky Harbor Airport
Chapel-run program at Sky Harbor seeks funds
Travelers Aid assists those in distress; city not renewing contract
By Amy B Wang The Republic | azcentral.com Sun Sep 1, 2013 9:25 PM
A place of refuge for travelers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is seeking help of its own.
The Sky Harbor interfaith chapel needs about $7,000 a month to continue Travelers Aid services after Phoenix did not renew its contract for the program earlier this year, Chaplain Al Young said.
Many airports around the world have interfaith chapels, enclaves where anyone can seek momentary respite from the potentially stressful environment outside. Sky Harbor is unusual in that its chapel also houses the airport’s Travelers Aid program, Young said.
He said the Travelers Aid program serves as a “safety net” for those who are in distress — perhaps homeless, recovering from an addiction, stranded or fleeing a domestic-violence situation — and have nowhere else to turn after getting to the airport.
Although the airport chaplain held the contract for the Travelers Aid program,
it is completely separate from the airport chaplaincy and the services provided there, Sky Harbor spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said.
She said airport staff and volunteers have access to local resources that can provide support for victims of domestic violence, the homeless and other cases, which were often handled by Travelers Aid.
“The Travelers Aid contract was put into effect when the airport had fewer police officers, operational staff and volunteers,” Ostreicher said in an e-mail. “Now with over 400 customer-service volunteers and increased airport staffing and police, it is no longer necessary to contract this service.”
The religious ministry is funded entirely by donations from other sources,
so the chapel itself is not in danger of closing, Young said.
But without Travelers Aid, the chapel’s reach is limited.
Travelers Aid case manager Nancy Tyler, who until last month was the lone case manager working out of the chapel for the Sky Harbor Travelers Aid, has agreed to an indefinite furlough.
There are people who need more than a just a temporary quiet place, Young said.
Tyler’s reports are filled with stories of misunderstandings, of people trying to escape domestic violence, of travelers who wind up stuck in Phoenix without money or means to get to where they need to go.
Sometimes, a little bit of communication makes all the difference, she wrote.
In June, Tyler received a call from a distraught man in Chicago who said his elderly, disabled mother was stuck at a gate in Terminal 2. Her connecting flight had been canceled, and he said no one from the airline had assisted her. Tyler worked with the airline to put her on another flight and helped the man’s mother get to Terminal 4 — to his immense relief, Tyler said.
Young said the chapel’s calming atmosphere is a natural environment for such a program. Tucked behind a currency exchange on the third floor of Terminal 4, it’s easy to miss. Every hour, at 27 minutes after the hour, a PA announcement mentions the chapel.
“We say it’s probably one of the best-kept secrets at the airport,” Young said. “Even regular travelers aren’t always aware there is a chapel.”
Step through the chapel doors, and gone are footsteps of people rushing to catch flights. Once inside, only a water fountain in the corner of a dim room is audible. A small shelf holds about two dozen religious texts, while a table by the entrance offers pamphlets on everything from alcohol addiction to overcoming loneliness.
At one time, the chapel had 13 chaplains. Now, there are six: four full time and two part time, all volunteers.
“Their role is to rove through the airport, be observant,” Young said. “If someone is showing signs of distress, (they) step up and introduce themselves and ask if there’s any help they can offer.”
The chapel receives an estimated 400 to 500 visitors each month, Young said.
About half are airport employees; the rest travelers. Some come to pray or simply sit in silence. Others ended up there for the Travelers Aid program.
“While the chapel ministry is an important part of what we do, the other side of it is a social service that we have been providing ... for stranded and distressed travelers,” Young said. “This is the program that we feel most needs support from the community.”
The city approved a one-year trial run of the program in June 2006, then extended it for seven years at about $75,000 annually.
The chapel wants to raise enough money to resurrect its Travelers Aid program and rehire Tyler. “Her knowledge is just indispensable,” Young said.
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