Newsroom | Old Shelter Gets a New Lease on Life as Homeless Numbers Rise in West Valley

MAG News

A family’s dream of offering shelter to people experiencing homelessness went unrealized for 10 years until the city of Surprise revived the dream by bringing an old building back to life.

Surprise repurposes building to get people back on their feet

Homelessness, Homeless, Shelter, Surprise

A family’s dream of offering shelter to people experiencing homelessness went unrealized for 10 years until the city of Surprise revived the dream by bringing an old building back to life.

“What I wanted to do personally was something impactful to the community. Something permanent. I didn’t just want this to be temporary rent assistance, a motel, hotel stay, or something we are not going to see an impact for the future,” says Surprise Neighborhood Services Supervisor Adam Lane.

A New Leaf, offering shelter to people experiencing homelessness in Surprise Arizona

As a result, new life was given to an old project that began as an idea to help get people off the city’s streets. A family in Surprise had planned on building a homeless shelter more than a decade ago, but that project was never completed. Fast forward 10 years, and now that same plot of land has a new lease on life.

After using federal CARES Act dollars on meals for seniors and other programs during the height of the pandemic, the city decided to use the remaining funds to address a growing number of people experiencing homelessness in Surprise.

“This property had already been constructed as a shelter but never opened, so we approached the owners of it and said, we have this stimulus money available to finish this and get it open as a shelter,” Lane said.

Groundbreaking ceremony for A New Leaf homeless shelter in Surprise

The city and the owners struck a deal for a 15-year lease, and that’s when things got rolling. The city looked for a way to sublet the property to a nonprofit with the capability of opening a shelter.

“We already worked with A New Leaf through our tenant-based rental assistance programs, and that was very successful, so they already have shelters up and running and the supportive services to go along with them, so I said, ‘let’s talk to A New Leaf and see if they are interested,’ and they were,” said Lane.

A New Leaf will manage the shelter and the rest of the property. It also will do extra work to get the property ready to open. The city and A New Leaf recently broke ground on the facility, which is expected to open in April 2023.

Lane said the shelter will operate as a non-congregate shelter to meet terms of the CARES Act funding.

“Beyond that, we want a housing-first model. We want to bring people in and house them as quickly as possible.”

Lane said the goal is to get someone rehoused in less than 30 days. The idea also is to use the shelter as a centralized location for housing resources. Lane said the housing can be used for emergency shelter, rapid rehousing, permanent housing, and as a means of rental assistance.

“Whatever they need to keep them housed – that is the overall goal,” Lane said.

Surprise shelter for those experiencing homelessness opens

The shelter will be the first of its kind for cities in the West Valley, providing “coordinated entry” services to assess people experiencing homelessness and prioritize those most in need of assistance. Lane said these services are vital, with the closest coordinated entry services 30 miles away.

Programs like this are one example of what cities are doing across the region to help people experiencing homelessness. The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Pathways Home Regional Action Plan for Local and Tribal Governments seeks to reduce homelessness in the region by 25 percent by 2027. Learn more about how A New Leaf and the city of Surprise are helping their communities.

Published November 23, 2022