Maricopa County Human Services Collaborates with St. Vincent de Paul Providing Heat Relief to the Unhoused Population
A newly expanded collaboration between the Maricopa County Human Services Department and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers 200 additional cooled sleeping spaces for people experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix area.
On June 9, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement that also paved the way for the Human Services Department to arrange for the transporting of individuals from the Human Services Campus, 204 S. 12th Avenue, to St. Vincent de Paul, 420 West Watkins. In coordination with the Human Services Campus, Phoenix Rescue Mission will be providing transportation on weekdays and Community Bridges, Inc. will provide transportation services on weekends. The expanded weather-relief transportation and shelter services will operate through September 30.
The expanded indoor space and transportation services come at a time when temperatures are soaring in the daytime to over 115 degrees, and overnight temperatures remain in the high 80s. “It is vitally important to be able to provide cooled, indoor space to offer a respite from the unrelenting heat,” said Bruce Liggett, Director of the Maricopa County Human Services Department. “The addition of transportation services allow us to assist the large number of people around the Human Services Campus so they can get safely to the newly expanded St. Vincent Watkins location, where they can have a meal and refresh with water and sleep.”
A recently published report by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health on heat associated deaths that there were 323 heat-associated deaths reported in the county in 2020, a 62.3% increase from 2019. Of the 323 cases in 2020, 53% were homeless at the time of their death.
“St. Vincent de Paul is honored to be partnering with the County to provide this essential, lifesaving service,” says Jessica Berg, Chief Program Officer. “The guests are so grateful for a safe place to stay – most would otherwise be staying on the street, the riverbed, or in a car. Instead, they are in a dignified facility and have access to food, water, a brand new cot, sheets, clean bathrooms, hygiene items, and AC. Equally important, our team is so excited and relieved to be able to offer this service and our guests feel that. They feel welcomed, accepted, cared for, and connected. It’s a gift to all of us.”
The collaborative partnership is one of several measures that Maricopa County is undertaking to address the need for indoor shelter space during the summer months. To guard against the heat, the temporary Safe Outdoor Space that allowed for socially distanced outdoor living space is being phased out. People staying at the outdoor space were offered indoor shelter or other alternative housing, meals and case management services to address any barriers that may prevent them from securing longer term solutions. Currently, only 9 of the original 240 individuals remain at the space. They are being offered indoor space at an existing shelter, or bridge housing, ahead of the site’s closure on June 30.
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For more information on Maricopa County’s Human Services Department, visit https://myhsd.maricopa.gov/5270/Human-Services.