May 2, 2023 - Real Estate

Phoenix homelessness is rising, but new shelters provide some relief

Data: Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care PIT Count; Chart: Axios Visuals

The results of January's point-in-time count are in, and the number of people experiencing homelessness is up year-over-year.

State of play: The communities in Maricopa County annually attempt to find and count all the people living in shelters or on the street.

  • The count, though only a snapshot, can provide helpful insights into how and why people are experiencing homelessness.

What they found: Volunteers counted 9,642 unhoused people, a 7% jump from the 2022 tally.

  • The number of people experiencing homelessness in the East Valley and West Valley decreased slightly, while the total in Phoenix increased.

1 silver lining: The number of people living outside decreased by 2%, while those staying in shelters increased by 18%, a likely byproduct of hundreds of new shelter beds added over the past year, Maricopa Association of Governments regional homelessness program manager Katie Gentry tells us.

Why it matters: Unhoused people who aren't staying in shelters have poorer health and premature mortality, per a 2016 study by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.

  • Neighborhoods with high levels of street homelessness report increased crime and blight.

What's next: Gentry says she hopes the count results encourage Valley leaders to continue investing in shelter options.

  • Metro Phoenix still needs thousands of beds to accommodate all who are currently living on the street.

Parting shot: For the first time, volunteers this year asked people whether their homelessness was caused by a rent increase. Almost 450 people responded with "yes."

  • "To me, it was just reaffirming that we're seeing so much of homelessness be an economic condition," Gentry says.
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