Affordable Housing To Blame for Rise In Homeless

The lack of affordable living arrangements is to blame, in part, for the rising number of homeless individuals, says one expert.

In January 2019, there were 3,188 homeless people in Maricopa County. According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, that’s an increase of 22% from last year.

“What that tells us is that more people are sleeping outside. … They’re in places not meant for human habitation,” said Amy Schwabenlender, the co-chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board and executive director of the Human Services Campus.

“And they’re less safe, obviously, than people who would be in a shelter.”

A homeless count is conducted each year by the county’s Continuum of Care program. The results are reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We use this data to look at our local situation related to homelessness and use it to understand the root causes and to work on developing greater solutions,” Schwabenlender said.

A lack of affordable housing, increasing rental prices, and high eviction rates are key reasons the amount of homeless individuals are rising.

“I think all of those factors work against people who may have had the means previously to keep their housing, and then they have a crisis and lose their housing and it becomes really difficult to find the next affordable place to live,” she said.

The amount of unsheltered homeless has increased over six consecutive years. Sheltered individuals has declined over that period.

In 2014, 18% of the homeless population was unsheltered. I’m 2019, it was 48%.

The data was sent to Housing and Urban Development, but it will take months for a detailed report to be released.

“Today’s release of information is really the first round of sharing the highest level data, and we have to go through a whole technical review process with HUD before we can further analyze and share more specifics around demographic, age, etc.,” she said.