Phoenix Area Homeless Count

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An annual count of the homeless in the Phoenix area is being conducted. It’s part of a requirement to qualify for federal funding to help that population. It will be done by the Maricopa Association of Governments. Brande Mead of MAG will tell us more.

Ted Simons: The Maricopa County Association of Governments conducted an annual count of the homeless population in Phoenix today, joining us to talk about the effort, Brande Mead of MAG.

Brande Mead: Thank you for asking me to be here.

Ted Simons: Before we go there, define homeless, who are you counting out there?

Brande Mead: This morning we are estimating the number of people experiencing homelessness on the street, counting men, women, and children who are living literally on the streets, across Maricopa County today.

Ted Simons: Regardless of whether they want this kind of life-style, whether they have been forced into this kind of life-style, you are counting those in the life-style.

Brande Mead: Yes, we are, yes.

Ted Simons: Okay. Methodology, I mean, how do you do this?

Brande Mead: We work with coordinators across the region, and each of those coordinators helps Maricopa Association of Government to implement the count. We had about 400 volunteers that spread out across the region. They were assigned to a specific area that they cover, and they have teams of two to three within -- within their group, and they canvas the area that they are assigned, and not only do we count the number of people who are homeless, but we also survey them so that we can better understand homelessness, and asking a variety of questions about demographic information, as well as characteristics.

Ted Simons: You are looking on the streets, in the shelters, these sorts of places.

Brande Mead: We do a shelter count as well.

Ted Simons: What about those -- I would imagine there are some in the homeless community who don't want to be found and don't want to be talked to. How do you handle that?

Brande Mead: Yes, there are some that are hidden or don't want to participate in the survey. We ask volunteers to go out and look at their area that they were assigned prior to the count so that they can get a better feel for the area. We do our best job to count those that are on the street, but it is our best estimate. We know that there will be people that are missed simply because we can't find them, or because they -- they don't want to be surveyed. So, we do the best that we can, but it is an estimate. It is our best estimate of those that are experiencing homelessness.

Ted Simons: As far as a survey is concerned, questions, obviously not everyone wants to answer questions either but what are they asked? How many questions --

Brande Mead: Survey includes 21 questions. We ask information. We ask for the person's name and age. We ask for the length of time they have experienced homelessness, and we ask about medical history questions to understand if there is a disabling condition that they might be experiencing. We ask about drug, alcohol use. Also ask whether or not the individual is a veteran. Also ask if there are other family members that are experiencing homelessness with them.

Ted Simons: Why is this being done?

Brande Mead: We conduct a point in time count on an annual basis and it helps us to not only know how many people are homeless, but understand the characteristics that led to their homelessness and helps us to bring in resources to the community. We submit the data to HUD. And we apply for the homeless assistance funding each year. We receive about $26 million in federal resources that goes to over 50 programs throughout Maricopa County. Those programs provide housing and supportive services to people who are homeless.

Ted Simons: So, it is required by the feds for that funding.

Brande Mead: It is. It is.

Ted Simons: 2014, last year, 33% decrease of those folks sleeping on the street. I think 13% of those in the shelter. For this year, final results not going to be out for a while though?

Brande Mead: We expect to have results in May. We are hoping that we will see another decrease again this year. There are many efforts in place throughout the community to house people as quickly as possible. We are hoping that we will continue to see a reduction in the number of people who are homeless and we will know more once we start getting the data back and we will have those results in May.

Ted Simons: Last question now that your long day is done and everyone is finished with this, can you tell, was it -- can you tell if you got the folks you were looking for, are people relatively successful this go-round?

Brande Mead: I have gotten some feedback since this morning. Volunteers are saying that they were able to survey people in their assigned locations and so far what we are expecting.

Ted Simons: Congratulations, it is a long day for you. Congratulations. Thank you for joining us.

Brande Mead: Thank you.

Brande Mead:Maricopa Association of Governments;

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