Dec 15, 2023 - Politics

Arizona, and nation, report record homelessness in 2023

Illustration of the dotted outline of a house key, but no house key.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Arizona — and the nation — saw more people experiencing homelessness this year than at any point since national tracking began in 2007, per the HUD Annual Assessment Report released Friday.

Why it matters: Communities have received unprecedented federal funding to support unhoused people since the COVID pandemic, but skyrocketing housing costs in cities including Phoenix have outpaced the aid.

By the numbers: In Arizona, 14,237 people experiencing homelessness were recorded during the annual count on a single night in January. That's a 5% increase from 2022 and almost a 30% surge since 2020, before the pandemic.

  • Nationally, 653,104 people — about 20 of every 10,000 people — experienced homelessness during the count. That's a 12% jump from 2022.

Reality check: The point-in-time survey is an imperfect tool, and largely believed to undercount the number of people experiencing homelessness.

Zoom in: Arizona reported the fourth-highest rate of unsheltered homelessness, with almost 54% of unhoused people sleeping on the street or somewhere else not meant for habitation. The rate jumped to 64% when looking at only homeless unaccompanied youth.

  • Metro Phoenix shelters are full nearly every night, providers told Axios. The region needs thousands of additional beds to serve all unhoused people.

Flashback: The Valley added some additional shelter space and helped place other unhoused people in hotel rooms temporarily since January. Two large shelters were expected to open this year, but never came to fruition.

  • The city of Phoenix expected to open a 200-bed campus this summer, but had to scrap the plans after it discovered methane gas on the site. An Axios Phoenix investigation found that the city knew about environmental risks as early as January but waited to pull the plug until June.
  • Central Arizona Shelter Services purchased the old Phoenix Inn in 2021 to convert it into a shelter for 170 unhoused senior citizens. Construction delays have pushed back the opening date to some time next year.

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