Maricopa Association of Governments’ report reveals rising homelessness

(graphic by Maricopa Association of Governments)

The 2018 annual homeless Point-in-Time Count tells a story of an increase in the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in the Maricopa County region.

The report shows a continuing increase in the number of people living on the streets or in unsheltered situations, according to a press release.

According to the report submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care, there were 6,298 people experiencing homelessness on the night of Jan. 22.

This includes those living in emergency shelters or on the streets. This is a 12 percent increase from the region’s 2017 number of 5,605.

While the overall numbers went up, the report also showed the number of homeless individuals, youth and families who were not in shelter continues to increase. This year, the number of people living in unsheltered situations was 2,618. This is a 27 percent increase from the 2017 number of 2,059 and a 149 percent increase from the unsheltered number recorded in 2014.

There are many reasons for homelessness, one of which may be an insufficient supply of affordable housing available in the region, a release states.

“For the first time, we asked the question, what single thing would be most helpful to you right now, and the overwhelming response from the people we interviewed—nearly half—said it would be housing,” Maricopa Association of Governments Chair Jackie Meck, mayor of Buckeye, said in a prepared statement.

Another potential reason for the change is a difference in methodology this year, with more than 700 volunteers participating, including city and town staff, police, outreach workers, service providers, and general volunteers.

Surveyors in Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler also used a mobile app to conduct the count, which increased efficiency and may have allowed them to interview more people.

“Even with these differences, we do believe that the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to rise at an alarming pace,” Chandler Councilmember Kevin Hartke, co-chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board at MAG, said in a prepared statement.

“State, county, local governments, nonprofits, service providers and faith-based leaders need to redouble their efforts to find ways to increase affordable housing options and jobs and help people get back on their feet.”

The annual Point-in-Time Count, which Maricopa Association of Governments coordinated with local street count coordinators from 24 municipalities in the region, is part of a national effort to identify the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The purpose of the count is to provide a one-night snapshot of the number of people who are experiencing homelessness in the region.

“Maricopa County continues to be the fastest-growing county in the nation,” Amy Schwabenlender, Valley of the Sun United Way and co-chair of the Continuum of Care Board, said in a prepared statement.

“With the population growth, housing shortage, and stagnation of federal and state resources, homelessness will remain a challenging issue for the region.”

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