Maricopa Association of Governments conducts annual homeless population count

Tents line the streets near Andre House (Erica Shipione/ Downtown Devil)

The Maricopa Association of Governments conducted the 2020 Point-In-Time Count on Tuesday across Maricopa County, including downtown Phoenix.

Hundreds of volunteers went to assigned grids, including alleys, parks and washes, to survey the homeless. Surveys took place from early morning until the afternoon.

The information gathered locally is to be combined in a national effort to help the homeless problem in the United States.

“The PIT Count in Maricopa County is designed as a one-night snapshot,” said Kelly Taft, the communications director of the Maricopa Association of Governments. “The homeless crisis is increasing every year, we are seeing significant increases of unsheltered people.”

According to the 2019 PIT Count report, a total of 6,114 people were experiencing homelessness. The report shows that from 2018 to 2019 the unsheltered rate increased by 22%, following a trend of an increasing unsheltered rate between 2014 and 2019.

“The grid was more crowded than last year,” said Ash Uss, the advocacy and partnership coordinator for Andre House, a nonprofit that provides a variety of services for the homeless. “The tents popped up over the past few weeks near the Andre House.”

Uss said that this is the largest population of homeless people at Andre House since she started working there in 2017. She said that part of the reason there are hundreds of people sleeping outside is because the homeless shelter on the Human Services Campus, where Andre House is located, has limited beds.

The Andre House does not have a shelter yet because they do not have the permits. Downtown Devil previously published an article written about the Human Services Campus’s proposal for more shelter beds.

Harold, a local homeless man who would like his last name to remain anonymous, was surveyed for the first time in years that morning by a volunteer from Andre House. The survey questions he was asked included whether he has had any medical or sexual problems, his concerns about living on the street, his experiences in shelters and if he feels at all threatened.

“When I was younger, it was an adventure by choice,” Harold said.

One of the obstacles he faces is the choice between eating and working to earn money. He often has to choose working over making it to a shelter to eat, and after missing out on food offered by shelters, he has to spend the money earned that day on food.

Official numbers for the 2020 PIT count will be available in May.

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