Annual survey finds rise in homelessness again in Maricopa County

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The Maricopa Association of Governments conducts an annual count of the homeless population in Maricopa County every January. The latest results show another increase in those experiencing homelessness. We learned more from Riann Balch, chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board.

The Point-in-Time Count is a national count of homelessness funded by the United States Department of Urban Development through Continuum of Care funds, Balch said.

This year’s count totaled just over 5000, a significant increase over the most recent 2020 tally of 3767. There was no count in 2021 due to the pandemic.

“I’m not surprised,” Balch said. “I work in this field, and this has been the trend not just in Maricopa County but across the nation.”

Balch primarily attributes this rise in homelessness to a lack of housing

“There just isn’t enough housing at the rates that people need it based on the wages that they’re making,” Balch said. “Of course, there are other factors, but that’s the big one. There’s not enough housing.”

For the first time ever, municipalities throughout the Valley have come together to develop a cohesive plan to combat homelessness.

“Just this past December all the municipalities came together and developed a plan, called the Pathways Home Plan. It’s the first time we’ve worked this closely together as a region.” Balch said. “We have a plan to move forward that includes one, working together and two, increasing all kinds of housing assets.”

The efforts have already begun.

“You’ll already see a lot of municipalities purchasing hotels and turning them into what we call non-congregant shelter, where each hotel room is it’s own shelter for one or maybe two people.”  Balch said. “That model has so successful, so we’re already seeing success with what we’re trying. “

Riann Balch, chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board.

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