The number of people experiencing homelessness continues to increase in Maricopa County, with those living in unsheltered situations climbing for the sixth straight year. Numbers released April 30 from the “point-in-time” count conducted in January show 6,614 people experiencing homelessness within the region, an increase of 316 people over 2018. Nearly 13 percent reported to be experiencing homelessness for the first time, which translates to more than 400 people. The unsheltered count identified 3,188 people living in a place not meant for human habitation, such as on the street, in desert washes, or in vehicles. The unsheltered count increased by 22 percent over 2018. “We are not surprised, and we are troubled by these numbers,” said Amy Schwabenlender, co-chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board and executive director of the Human Services Campus. “This should be of concern to everyone living in the Valley. The ripple effects of homelessness touch individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities. These are first and foremost human impacts, and at the same time they profoundly weave into societal and economic impacts.” The Continuum of Care submitted the required point-in-time data to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in late April. The Continuum of Care will release a full analysis of the 2019 count later this year. Analyzing data is a collaborative effort and is time consuming, said Tempe Police Sgt. Robert Ferraro, also co-chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board. “We will dive deeper into the findings to better understand root causes of homelessness,” said Sgt. Ferraro. “We want to know what leads to chronic homelessness, what leads to first-time homelessness, and the causes of Veteran and family homelessness,” he said. “The Continuum of Care will look at factors such as eviction rates and affordable housing, and see what solutions we can recommend.” For the first time, the 2019 unsheltered count also included a tally of pets. Overall data identified 182 pets on the street, 10 of which were service animals.