Count: more homeless on streets, but overall numbers down

The annual Point-in-Time count of homeless tells two stories in 2017: a slight reduction in the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in the region, but an increase in the number of individuals and families living on the streets.

In a report submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care, there were 5,605 people experiencing homelessness on Jan. 23, 2017, according to a press release.

This represents a two percent decrease from the 2016 number of 5,702 people.

While overall numbers decreased, the report shows the number of homeless individuals and families living on the street went up by more than 400 people, the release stated. In 2017, 2,059 people were living in “unsheltered” situations, up from 1,646 in 2016.

(graphic by Maricopa Association of Governments)

“Maricopa County is the fastest-growing county in the nation, so we have an overall increase in population,” said Chandler Vice Mayor Kevin Hartke, co-chair of the Continuum of Care Board, in the press release.

“We also are seeing an insufficient supply of affordable housing available in the region. In addition, we have improved our methodology for the point-in-time count.”

Mr. Hartke says cities used additional professional outreach workers to count in areas where there have been high concentrations of homeless persons.

“Since outreach works already have relationships with people on the street, more surveys were completed this year,” he said.

The annual point-in-time homeless count, coordinated by the Maricopa Association of Governments with volunteer street count coordinators and professional outreach workers in the region, is part of a national effort to identify the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

On the morning of Jan. 24, more than 300 surveyors reached out to homeless men, women and children staying in shelters and sleeping on the street.  The purpose of the count is to provide a one-night snapshot of the number of people who are homeless.

“Overall trends show that the region is holding steady,” said Amy Schwabenlender, Valley of the Sun United Way and co-chair of the Continuum of Care Board, in the press release.

“While the overall number will fluctuate from year to year, generally the region’s numbers are between 5,600 and 6,000. Homelessness remains a complex and challenging issue, and the Board believes the problem is solvable. It will take commitment and resources, and ending homelessness remains our top priority.”

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