Subcommittee recommends approval of homeless outreach team for light rail

(Nicole Neri/DD)

A city subcommittee approved a new light rail security team to work with homeless riders of the system.

The Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee has recommended full council approval on the measure, which would extend the budget for the Phoenix CARES program to cover an addition to light rail security on Tuesday.

Public Transit Director Maria Hyatt asked the subcommittee to approve the reallocation of $125,000 to pay for two additional officers to provide security on the light rail.

“Unlike the Phoenix CARES program that focuses on encampments, this is really looking at ways to address impacts of homeless on public transit,” Hyatt said.

The program will be a partnership between Valley Metro, the Phoenix Police Transit Enforcement Unit, and Community Bridges Inc., a private nonprofit focused on substance abuse treatment already in partnership with Phoenix CARES.

The measure will offer protection during non-peak hours by hiring officers to work flexible hours.

“Instead of it being a structured 40 hours from eight to five, [the partnership] would work to identify what would be the best hours to for them to work in order to address the issues on the light rail,” Hyatt said.

Vice Mayor Laura Pastor was in favor of the measure, but was doubtful whether two officers would be enough.

“The light rail runs from Monday to Sunday, so how are those 40 hours going to be met with only two people?” she said. “I’m advocating for more than two people because our line is larger than two people to manage.”

Pastor wished to see these changes implemented before the outreach team is deployed.

“I’m glad that this is at this point, but I don’t think we have enough outreach teams on there unless they’re working with the outreach teams on the ground also on the line,” Pastor said. “I think we need to still work on this beast to make sure it happens in the way that we want it to coordinate with everybody on the ground already working.”

Chairwoman Thelda Williams suggested moving the item forward to the city council on a pilot budget to assess whether one team will be sufficient. The subcommittee agreed.

“This is a big plus,” Councilwoman Debra Stark said of the measure. “I know I hear a lot from people about security on light rail, so I think this is an excellent move to help address some of those issues.”

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