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Tuesday Nights in Tempe: Mom starts group for those experiencing homelessness

'I will be there, I will feed them, I will clothe them, I will give them hugs and make sure they know they're loved so that they keep coming back'
Kaley O'Kelley.png
Posted at 4:34 AM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-07 08:13:20-05

TEMPE, AZ — Positive change is happening for Tempe's homeless population thanks to one woman on a mission to help her community.

Katherine Kouvelas-Edick, a mother and a financial analyst, was looking for ways to volunteer as her kids grew older. Her search led her to find an outreach program for homeless youth.

"The first day I left crying, and I'm not a crier,” Kouvelas-Edick said. “I called my mom and she's like, 'why are you so emotional?'"

According to Kouvelas-Edick, she was struck by how alone the teens she volunteered with seemed.

“I always grew up knowing Mom or Dad would come and get me at three in the morning [if I was] doing stupid stuff, wherever I was. No questions asked, I would be safe,” she said. “They didn't have that and it broke me."

Those tears inspired Kouvelas-Edick to start collecting blankets, clothing, and gift cards from friends.

Loading the donations into her minivan, she shared these things with the unhoused.

In 2016, Kouvelas-Edick’s mission to help those experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction led to her founding the Aris Foundation.

"I didn't have any experience with homelessness. I didn't have any experience with drug addiction. Nothing like that in my past,” Kouvelas-Edick said.

Now, every Tuesday at 4:15 p.m., Kouvelas-Edick and a group of dedicated volunteers provide care in the parking lot of Mountain Park Health. It's something they've done for the past five years.

Aris Foundation Tempe

"We're seeing people come from Mesa, from Phoenix, from Tempe, and from Scottsdale,” she said. “We're off the light rail, which is wonderful."

According to Kouvelas-Edick, people experiencing homelessness first attend Tuesday Nights to receive free meals. But in the process, they find access to housing resources, medical checkups, clothing and so much more.

"We try to get a connection with every single one of them so that when they're ready, we can help them get ready,” she said. “Honestly, sobriety is the best way to get off the streets, because then we're fairly certain we can keep you off the streets."

For so many who have lost everything, Kouvelas-Edick said Tuesday Nights in Tempe are a place for people who need it to find clarity, feel a sense of hope, and start living again.

"I just want to make sure that they know they have a person," Kouvelas-Edick said. "So, until they are ready, I will be there. I will feed them, I will clothe them. I will give them hugs and make sure they know they're loved so that they keep coming back."