Maricopa County Count of Unhoused Individuals

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According to new federal data, the Phoenix metro area has one of the highest homeless rates in the country. To better address the crisis, Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) did its annual count of the unhoused on Tuesday. Kelli Williams, director of the Human Services Division at MAG, joined Ted to discuss this survey.

“It’s a requirement from HUD, the federal government, that we annually do this,” said Williams. “We send people out to interact with individuals who are experiencing homelessness and ask them some really specific questions.”

Over nine hundred volunteers spread out across the county to help this project. Williams said that more and more people are becoming interested in this type of volunteering.

“The year prior we had over five hundred, so we’re seeing a real increase in interest in this work, in volunteering,” said Williams.

All survey questions are dictated by HUD. Some included an unsheltered individual’s length of homelessness, COVID’s had an impact on their housing situation, and the individual’s gender identity. As Williams points out, all information is collected on a voluntary basis. This means that sometimes individuals do not wish to speak with volunteers.

“That happens probably about twenty percent of the time,” Williams said. “The volunteers don’t want to bother the individuals, and so we count those as observations, and there’s a separate mechanism for gathering some basic data just from what you can observe.”

On Tuesday, all data was collected by volunteers through an app developed by the Maricopa Association of Governments. The official report will come out in a few months after the information is processed.

Currently Arizona has one of the worst homelessness crises in the nation, according to new federal data. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in December released its 2022 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness Report, which includes key findings about homelessness nationwide and compares how cities and states measure against one another. Homelessness across the country increased by less than 1% between 2020 and 2022, the report showed. Yet Arizona saw a disproportionate increase of 23% in its homeless population.

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