Maricopa County Continues Efforts to fight against homelessness

While the overnight emergency shelter in downtown Phoenix was about to start limiting its services before fully shutting down in October, the scheduled closedown has been postponed by local non-profit sector and government leaders.

The overnight emergency shelter was opened back in May of 2015. It consisted of the Lodestar Day Resource Center and the boardrooms and hallways of St. Vincent De Paul on the Human Services Campus. It is also deemed comparatively better than the Men’s Overflow Shelter (MOS) and the parking lot where homeless people used to sleep at night.

The arrangement to keep the Phoenix’s overnight emergency shelter open through February is underway according to the director of the Maricopa County Human Services Department, Bruce Liggett. He further went on to say that they had been funding the shelter since July 1st.

Then leaders of St. Vincent de Paul came to them with a proposal about how to keep the shelter running for less money. The running cost was then agreed to be split by Liggett and his counterparts at the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Arizona Department of Housing, and the Valley of the Sun United Way. A $10,000 per month contribution will be made by each agency through February, 2017.  

Moving forward Lodestar won’t be part of the shelter. However, the managing director of the Day Resource Center, David Bridge said that that transition will be supported by the organization and space will be available during emergency weather situations.

The fate of the shelter after February, 2017 is still uncertain. But Liggett assures that they will be working to provide houses to the most in-need: the chronically homeless, disable, veterans, etc. Approximately 7,000 people have spent at least one night at the Phoenix shelter as of June, 20th. A total of 491 of which has been moved to long-term housing. Another 52 will be moved in a similar manner in the coming weeks. Almost 650 are currently at various stages in the whole process.

After the MOS was declared unfit for habitation, by the state fire marshal in 2015, representatives from the county, state, city and private sector met to find an alternative. That’s when the decision of Maricopa County to overhaul it approach to homelessness was decided upon. The aim called ‘Housing First’ was created to provide the homeless with a permanent roof over their heads. The Funders Collaborative was able to secure $2.5 million for the effort along with additional 250 housing vouchers from the City of Phoenix.

The same concept was successful in Utah and other counties. Phoenix seems to be following suit.

According to the recent Maricopa County data there were 5,918 homeless individuals in 2014; 5,631 in 2015; and 5,702 in 2016. Liggett hopes that the current efforts will help to decrease the numbers even further even if it isn’t able to eradicate homelessness permanently.

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