Category Archives: Homelessness

Coalition raises community awareness of metro Phoenix homelessness

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — They’ll walk.  They’ll share a meal.  And hopefully, they’ll challenge the preconceived notions and myths about people who are experiencing homelessness.  This week, a coalition of 11 service providers, faith-based organizations, and non-profits which make up the Homelessness Awareness Coalition, will do their part to raise knowledge on the complex issue.  Their lofty goal, to end homelessness in Maricopa County.

According to Brian Spicker of Valley of the Sun United Way, about 8,000 individuals experience homelessness each day in Maricopa County and 14 percent of Arizona’s population lives in poverty.  More and more families and individuals are turning to Valley providers for assistance.  Lack of financial resources, eviction and job loss are the three most common reasons given by persons entering shelters.  “Homelessness impacts diverse people,” Spicker said.  “It’s not just a Phoenix issue.  It’s a Valley-wide issue.  At our last Homeless Connect, 25 percent of attendees were newly homeless.” [Note: Read the full article at Coalition raises community awareness of metro Phoenix homelessness.]

ASU students organize panel on Phoenix homelessness

[Source: Rachel Jimenez, Arizona State Press] — The ASU Wells Fargo Student Center held a homelessness panel at the Downtown campus Tuesday to discuss the myths and misconceptions of homelessness.  Creative writing senior Eichelle Armstrong had the idea for the panel and put it together.  “When I was a freshman I lived [in] downtown [Phoenix] and had a friend who was deathly afraid of the homeless,” she said.  Because of this, Armstrong decided to create a discussion where students can learn the realities of homelessness.

The panel consisted of five experts and they spoke to eight participating students.  Panelist Terry Araman, who works for the Lodestar Day Resource Center, said officials from Maricopa County conduct a study about the homeless population annually.

The Maricopa Association of Governments study found a 20 percent increase in homeless people between January 2008 and January 2009.  There were about 2,918 homeless people in Maricopa County as of January 2009.  However, that number doesn’t include people living in shelters across the Valley.  Numbers aren’t yet available for 2009, according to the study, but there were 4,793 people living in shelters in 2008.

The study reports that there are 280 homeless people under the age of 18, an increase of 280 percent since 2008.  The number of homeless adults increased 14 percent to 2,698; and the number of homeless families increased 248 percent, to 37.

Through present economic hardships, many individuals and families have been evicted or have lost their jobs or mortgages, Araman said.  “We’ve been seeing a lot of what we call the ‘new homeless,’” he said.  [Note: Read the full article at ASU students organize panel on Phoenix homelessness.]

Phoenix seeks residents’ input on General Plan revision

[Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Meetings are taking place citywide to ask citizens what they like about Phoenix, and what they want to change.  The gatherings are the first step in a three-year process aimed at revising the Phoenix General Plan, a document of nearly 500 pages that governs growth and development in the city.  “If you want to have a say in what happens — highways vs. transit, sprawl vs. infill, pollution, parks and open space — then you need to get involved,” said Jim McPherson, a civic activist who has volunteered in the effort.

Carol Johnson, a city planner who is managing the process, said meetings will take place over the rest of the year in connection with local village planning committee meetings.  “We really need to hear from the community about what they want Phoenix to be, and how we can get there,” she said.  “That will define the scope for what we do next.”

Johnson described the general plan as the city’s “long-term guide for the physical manifestation of the city.”  She said development of the revised plan would entail a period of “visioning,” in which ideas and goals are developed, followed by a period of drafting policies and measures, and determining implementation.

The plan could include updated sustainability measures, improved business-development plans, revised historical features, and new benchmarks for infrastructure repairs and upgrades.  In meetings so far, “there is a lot of interest in climate change and the urban heat island,” Johnson said.  “Some people have said the village cores are not working. Others want to see land use and transportation planned in tandem.” She said the plan ultimately would be organized around four subject areas: community, economy, environment and infrastructure.

Catrina Knoebl, a downtown activist, said she expects the process to be worthwhile for the public as well as the city.  “I have found the city absolutely listens to citizens,” she said. “They want to hear what residents have to say.  They are actively reaching out.”  Knoebl said she finds the timing to be advantageous because “we have more people than ever before who are knowledgeable and engaged.”

McPherson agreed the timing is right.  “We have a little bit of breathing room now,” he said.  “With the slowdown caused by the economy, we have some time to do some thinking.” [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix seeks residents’ input on General Plan revision.]

Phoenix homeless seek refuge from heat

[Source: Colton Shone, KTAR Radio] — The warm temperatures are making it extra tough on the Valley’s homeless population.  At the Human Services campus in downtown Phoenix, many people are seeking shelter, but some have to be turned away.  “There’s not endless resources for this sort of thing, especially now that we have a 60 percent increase in the homeless population,” director Arlene Pfeiff-Maraj said.

Pfeiff-Maraj says the shelter expects about 1,000 people Thursday night but can only hold 450.  Another 300 will stay in a nearby warehouse, and the rest will sleep in the parking lot.  [Note: Read full article at Phoenix homeless seek refuge from heat]

Metro Phoenix homeless count up 20% from 2008

[Source: Yvonne Wingett, Arizona Republic] — More single adults, families, and youths are living on the streets in metro Phoenix.  A Maricopa Association of Governments survey counted 2,918 homeless people throughout the county this year, a 20 percent increase from the 2,426 counted in 2008.  The Homeless Street Count found 230 families living on the streets, up 370 percent from last year’s count of 49 families.  The number of youths living on their own rose to 139, more than triple last year’s count. 

Each January, hundreds of agency workers, police officers, city employees and volunteers hit the streets to count the homeless.  Their findings are used to request federal funding for homeless services and to improve and expand services for non-profits.  This year’s increase in the homeless population comes after a 15 percent decline a year ago, said Brande Mead, a human-services planner with the Maricopa Association of Governments.

The count does not include the number of people living in shelters, which numbered nearly 5,000 last year, she said.  The state Department of Economic Security is conducting this year’s shelter survey; the results could be available early next week, Mead said.

The bad economy is to blame for the increase in the homeless population, experts said.  “We’re seeing more elderly, more disabled (homeless),” said Mark Holleran, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, or CASS, in downtown Phoenix.  “It just appears to be the overall result of what’s happening… with the loss of jobs and the shaky economy” and with government agencies cutting back.  There is also an uptick in the number of homeless veterans, Holleran said, which he thinks could further increase as a result of the war in Iraq.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Volunteer opportunities abound for Phoenix residents

The City of Phoenix has expanded its list of volunteer opportunities by department to include a calendar of volunteer events.  Click here for current volunteer events.  For ongoing volunteer opportunities coordinated by various city departments, click on the program name below.  Don’t see a volunteer opportunity of interest to you?  Have an idea about helping out Phoenix?  Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities in Phoenix?  Send an e-mail.

Neighborhood Services

Social Services

Parks & Recreation

Library

Sky Harbor Airport

Public Safety

Needy flood increasingly strapped Phoenix charities

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The grim economy has driven Valley residents to turn to charities of last resort: shelters and food banks.  The economy is also taking a toll on the non-profits that are helping them.  St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance gave away 70 percent more food to needy families this past December than it did the same month in 2007.  Officials say food programs will be scaled back unless they receive more donations.

In six months, the number of people who line up for a free breakfast has roughly doubled at downtown Phoenix’s Human Services Campus. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an agency that serves meals there, had to lay off eight workers and stopped serving lunch to the needy in Sunnyslope because donations are down.  At the campus, volunteers and employees help handle housekeeping duties because of staff cutbacks, one official said.

Each night, more than 300 people sleep in the parking lot of one Phoenix homeless shelter for men because there’s no room left inside of the building.  Central Arizona Shelter Services, the non-profit that runs that shelter and two others, lost $118,000 of the $839,000 that it used to get annually from Phoenix, a victim of city budget cuts.  Maricopa County, another major funding source, is weighing whether to cut its CASS contribution by half. Maricopa County contributes $600,000 to CASS programs, roughly 10 percent of its $6 million annual operating budget, Jennifer Dangremond, CASS’s development director.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix police, shelter reach out to troubled homeless people

[Source: Lindsey Collom, Arizona Republic] — Cecilia didn’t look up. A man who was with her had slinked away into the darkness, leaving a broken crack pipe and Cecilia alone to answer police and social workers. She rummaged through a tote filled with papers and other clutter, ignoring the headlights that broke the night and illuminated her campsite of boxes and bags on a central Phoenix roadside.

Homeless-shelter operators, on a regular nighttime sweep of downtown, said they often found Cecilia sleeping on the streets, even though she had an apartment. “For a long time, we’re just kind of thinking she was lonely,” said Sean Bonnette, a shelter manager at Central Arizona Shelter Services, Arizona’s largest homeless shelter. “She’d just come out here and stash stuff. She wants to sit out here….It’s hard to teach someone to not be homeless.”

Service providers and Phoenix police have joined forces to attack chronic homelessness by reaching out to those who won’t ask for assistance. A team of Phoenix police and CASS specialists has been crisscrossing downtown Phoenix four nights a week to engage homeless people who have severed connections with service providers and are drowning in mental illness or substance abuse. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix homeless advocates say need at “critical level”

[Source: Sandra Haros, KTAR] — The 15 organizations that make up the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix say need is at a critical level.  There are 14,000 homeless men, women, and children living shelters, cars, or on the streets in Maricopa County.  

They’ve started a new campaign called “One Step Away,” which reflects the looming threat of homelessness for thousands of families. “Five dollars from one person isn’t going to solve the issue of homelessness or hunger,” said Steve Zabilsky with the Saint Vincent De Paul charity in Phoenix.  “But if you think about literally the millions of people who live in our state, if all of them were to give a dollar, or two dollars, or five dollars, that could make a huge, huge difference.”

Capitol Mall Association to hold Dec. 10 community forum on neighborhood safety

[Source: Shannon Dubasik, Capitol Mall Association] — The Capitol Mall Association will host a community forum concerning the significant influx of sex offenders and prisoners being released into the neighborhoods on the near west side of downtown Phoenix.  Invited are city officials and staff, County Supervisors, state legislators, the Arizona Department of Corrections and other related state agencies, social service providers, business owners, and residents.

  • Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2008
  • Time: 6 – 7 p.m.
  • Place: University Park (northwest corner of 10th Avenue & Van Buren)

For more information or if you have questions, contact Shannon Dubasik at 602-340-0745 or e-mail.