Homelessness in our nation, as well as in Arizona, is arguably one of the greatest social ills of our society. Homelessness can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, education level, or socio-economic status. While instances of substance abuse or mental health issues are often present, they are not always factors in the homeless population. However, substance abuse and mental illness make it more difficult for homeless individuals to accept assistance designed to get them into safe, secure, and stable housing.
Each year, DES program staff and community providers participate in the Point in Time (PIT) count where each county selects one night during the program year to participate. The PIT count is designed to give the community an estimate of the number of homeless individuals in the community on any given night. In 2015, the number of unsheltered individuals counted Statewide was 2,720, which was an increase from 2,500 counted in 2014.
The Rapid Rehousing and Homeless Prevention programs in Arizona made significant impacts in the 2014-15 funding year. More than 1,900 individuals statewide were assisted through either Rapid re-housing services or Homeless Prevention. National and local results have demonstrated that housing is the foundational intervention that moves individuals and/or families from homelessness to self-sufficiency. National best practices demonstrate that focusing on developing permanent housing options that are accessible and affordable, combined with collaborative, flexible case management practices, are essential in eliminating homelessness.
The issue of homelessness among veterans has become a national topic over the last few years. It is estimated that approximately 15% of all homeless individuals in the state of Arizona are veterans. In 2015, there were 1,693 homeless and at-risk veterans participated in the Maricopa County StandDown Event, which continues to be one of the largest events in the nation in support of Arizona’s homeless and at-risk veterans. During the 2015 event, homeless and at‐risk veterans were offered shelter beds and other basic needs items, such as food, clothing, shoes, hygiene products, showers, and restroom facilities. Of the participants attending, nine percent were currently living on the streets, seven percent were residing in emergency shelters, and six percent were living in transitional housing. Ninety-five service providers, including the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division, City of Phoenix municipal courts and other court systems around the county, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Economic Security came together to cut the red tape and deliver services quickly, efficiently, and in a veteran‐centered framework.
The 2016 Maricopa County StandDown Event is being held tomorrow and Friday, January 28-29th at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Representatives from the DAAS’ Telephone Discount Program and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP), DES’ Family Assistance Administration (FAA), AZ Veterans Employment Services and others will be participating.
Additional Veteran StandDown events have occurred in Pima, Yavapai, Pinal, Coconino, Mohave, Graham, Greenlee, and Cochise Counties.