The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires every Continuum of Care— a community planning process to organize and deliver services— across the nation to conduct an annual count within their geographic area for homeless individuals and families who are unsheltered. This year’s count for Maricopa County, coordinated by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), was held on Tuesday, January 22 to determine how many individuals are currently experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County. MAG serves as the hub between the Continuum of Care and local communities to determine approximately how many people are experiencing homelessness so federal funding can be appropriately allocated. Federal funding for homeless services is provided by HUD and is distributed by DES. The count assists in determining the amount of funding needed for the next fiscal year. Eleven DES employees volunteered to participate in this year’s count.
Members of the DES team were assigned a specific region and asked to collect basic demographic information such as ethnicity, gender, duration of homelessness and where individuals slept the night before. In previous years, volunteers used pen and paper to answer survey questions. This year, a new mobile app was provided so volunteers could ask questions and collect information. The app made it quick and easy by taking the volunteers through the questions step-by-step and allowed the location to be marked exactly where the homeless individuals were met.
Nearly every individual with whom they had the opportunity to talk knew exactly what day they fell into homelessness.
One gentleman who was 24 years old, fell into homelessness after leaving his father’s house after an altercation. The age range of homeless individuals surveyed spanned from 24 to 65.
DES volunteers interviewed 42 individuals experiencing homelessness. General observations for those who chose not to be surveyed or were asleep when the early morning count was conducted, were also entered into the mobile app. Data collected during this year’s PIT count won’t be available until May when the nationwide counts are collected and analyzed.
The 2018 PIT count identified 9,865 people experiencing homelessness throughout the State of Arizona. In Maricopa County alone, the total unsheltered population has risen 149% since 2014. For more results on the 2018 PIT count data for Maricopa County, visit the Maricopa Association of Governments.
The Arizona Department of Housing coordinates the count for the Balance of State, which includes the northern 13 counties. This count is conducted the entire week of January 22-27. Tucson and Pima County count is January 23rd.
For more information on DES programs and services offered in collaboration with community partners, please visit the DES website.
By Isabella Neal