In an effort to provide a sustainable, impactful solution to the issue of homelessness in Phoenix, State and County officials will redirect funding that has previously gone toward the temporary overflow shelter to permanent housing solutions. For more than two years, temporary sleeping mats have been available for the homeless population on the Human Services Campus (HSC) located at 11th Avenue and West Jackson.
“Our commitment is to serve those who are most vulnerable,” said Bruce Liggett, Maricopa County Human Services Director. “Public funds need to be directed toward permanent solutions. There is a need for more shelter beds with fewer demands, but the overflow was always a temporary solution. The real solution is permanent housing with support services. That’s where the funding is making the most impact.”
The overflow shelter was initially operated on campus by the Lodestar Day Resource Center before being transferred to St. Vincent de Paul. The main campus shelter, operated by the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS), accommodates more than 400 nightly. On any given night, an average of 240 people are bedding down on the floor of the overflow shelter at the St. Vincent de Paul dining room.
“Hundreds of homeless individuals and families have been placed in permanent housing in the past three years, and this redirection of funding will quickly push that number into the thousands,” said Michael Trailor, Arizona Department of Economic Security Director. “We are seeing an increase in the number of unsheltered homeless. The solution is not a mat on a cafeteria floor. The solution has to be moving these people into permanent housing.”
By the end of September, Maricopa County, the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Arizona Department of Housing, and Valley of the Sun United Way will have spent an estimated $3.5 million to support these temporary accommodations comprised of security, staffing costs, and increased utility expenses.
The overflow shelter operated by St. Vincent de Paul will be phased out by the end of September 2018, and will begin to operate at reduced levels in April as people are provided alternative arrangements: diversion, shelter, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing.
State, County, and non-profit partners understand that the summer months can be especially difficult for the homeless population. In an ongoing effort to ensure safety, St. Vincent de Paul will continue to provide space—through at least September—for hundreds of people to get relief from the weather at the Human Services Campus. St. Vincent de Paul will make the call when an “Excessive Heat Warning” has been issued or the chance of rain is 50% or more between 7:30 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
To integrate homeless individuals in rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing, the County and State are working with nonprofit partners to identify individuals who are homeless find housing and match them with a caseworker who can help them get the resources they need to successfully pay housing expenses on their own. Those resources often include medical, behavioral, budgeting, job training and placement. With redirected funds toward this mission, partners can continue this assistance on a larger scale, reintegrating people who are homeless into productive lives that benefit those individuals and the community.
“The State has committed more than $30 million to address homelessness in Phoenix in the past 20 months alone by assisting with sheltering, rehousing assistance, and adding additional supportive housing units in the city,” said Carol Ditmore, Director of the Arizona Department of Housing. “The State is dedicated to increasing the supply of permanent housing options for individuals who are homeless throughout the state.”
“We commend the Lodestar Day Resource Center and St. Vincent de Paul who have worked tirelessly to help provide the temporary arrangement by making space available,” added Liggett.