January count finds continued rise in numbers across the region
For Immediate ReleaseContact: Kelly Taft, MAG, 602-452-5020
Nicky Stevens, MAG, 602-452-5006
PHOENIX (March 11, 2022) — The number of people experiencing homelessness continues to increase in communities across the region, with those living in unsheltered situations climbing by 35 percent since 2020, according to newly released numbers from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). The numbers reflect a two-year increase, since the 2021 count was not conducted due to the COVID pandemic.
More than 5,000 people experienced homelessness in unsheltered situations in Maricopa County on the night of January 25, 2022. (See attachment for breakdown by jurisdiction.) Data collection and analysis from the shelter count conducted at the same time is underway. A full report with the results from the unsheltered and shelter counts, along with supplemental data, will more fully describe the full number of people experiencing homelessness. The report is pending additional data collection and analysis.
The number of people experiencing homelessness has continued to rise in recent years. Previous to the pandemic, the Maricopa County region experienced increases from 2014 to 2020, which is consistent with national trends. The pandemic strained economies worldwide, resulting in the loss of jobs, particularly low wage jobs. This placed people more at risk of experiencing homelessness.
While the stark rise in numbers is troubling, the increase was anticipated by local governments with a pulse on their communities. MAG member agencies have been working together for months to develop and implement a comprehensive regional approach to homelessness for the region. In December, the MAG Regional Council unanimously approved “Pathways Home, the Regional Homelessness Action Plan for Local and Tribal Governments,” the first regional homelessness plan created by local and tribal governments. A number of activities and investments are already underway to implement the Pathways Home plan and achieve progress.
“The Point in Time count underscores what we already know — homelessness is a critical issue for the Valley,” says Mesa Mayor John Giles, chair of the MAG Regional Council. “This is a regional challenge that needs regional solutions. These numbers are much more than statistics — they represent individuals, each with their own unique story. They are our neighbors, and our community. We all have a role to play in ensuring their access to safe, attainable housing.”
Riann Balch chairs the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board, the regional group tasked with addressing homelessness in the region. Balch also serves as community development and resources manager for the city of Chandler.
“Rapidly changing market conditions and economic hardship heightened by the pandemic have created opportunities to work together across sectors and geography to address the housing crisis,” says Balch. “Housing is the foundation for healthy families and vibrant communities, and there are many new options to explore. This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of movement – we all have something to bring to the table.”
Coordinated by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), the count uses volunteer teams that include city, county, and state representatives; community and faith-based organizations; businesses; and private residents. It is designed as a one-day snapshot and different methodologies may impact results over time. The last count, conducted in 2020, found a one-year increase of 18 percent in unsheltered homelessness, consistent with the current two-year trend.
This year, the count was conducted entirely electronically via an app developed by MAG in 2018. The app was piloted in the past three PIT counts and has been refined to allow for more robust data analysis and high-quality accuracy. Conducting the count via the MAG app ensured a credible methodology that built on strengths of previous efforts. Conducting a paperless count enabled MAG to deduplicate the data in a more effective way and share unsheltered numbers earlier than previous years. MAG is still analyzing the data on trends involving subpopulations such as youth, veterans, and families to tell a more in-depth story of regional homelessness.
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