Dec 20, 2022 - News

Phoenix leaders push for more shelters after 700+ unhoused people died in 2022

A rendering of a hotel that is brightly colored and says "The Haven."

A rendering of The Haven after renovations. Courtesy of CASS

Homeless service providers in Phoenix are trying to quickly open new shelters across the Valley to address the growing number of people living on the streets.

Why it matters: Tuesday marks Homeless Persons' Memorial Day, which is recognized on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

By the numbers: Homelessness in Maricopa County increased 22% over the past two years and more than 700 people experiencing homelessness have died this year. That's up from about 550 last year.

Of note: Investigators reported an additional 450 deaths this year of people whose housing status could not be determined.

What's happening: Government agencies and nonprofits are using federal pandemic-relief funds to provide new shelter options, especially for seniors and people with mental illnesses.

  • For years, the 600-bed Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) location was virtually the only option for emergency housing.
  • Now, local leaders are looking to create smaller facilities that address specific needs for different populations.

The latest: CASS is getting ready to renovate the old Phoenix Inn on Interstate 17 near Northern Avenue. When finished this summer, it will provide 170 beds for people 55 and older.

  • The Haven will have onsite medical care and other resources tailored to senior citizens.
  • CASS tested the model by renting out part of a hotel for seniors experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. Almost 70% of the people who stayed there got permanent housing, CEO Lisa Glow told us.
  • The group purchased the hotel outright with pandemic funding from the state housing department. The Phoenix City Council approved $4 million of their federal dollars for the renovation.

What she's saying: "It's a more dignified, safer space for [senior citizens] than having to navigate 600 beds," Glow said.

Flashback: Earlier this year, St. Vincent de Paul opened a new 200-bed shelter in south Phoenix.

  • The Human Services Campus opened a 100-bed structure next to the CASS shelter and is prioritizing people with significant barriers to housing, including individuals discharged from hospitals.

What's next: CASS is partnering with Copa Health to open a 54-bed transitional housing facility for people with a Severe Mental Illness in 2024 on the state hospital grounds.

  • Community Bridges, Inc., is looking to open a 100-bed behavioral health wellness center in Sunnyslope.

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