According to a January 2019 count; Phoenix has a homeless population of approximately 6600 people.
A significant portion (about a third according to Phoenix Rescue Mission data about Maricopa County) of the homeless are families with children.
Many of these people are sleeping in shelters, in tent encampments, or on the cold or hot streets (depending on the time of year) either because they:
- Cannot afford housing. Right now, some reports indicate that a person in some parts of the Phoenix area needs to earn $20.00 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
- Have mental health issues like posttraumatic stress from military service.
- Have physical health issues.
Unfortunately, the homeless population in Phoenix and Maricopa County has been increasing for the last six years.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, nearing the end of her first full year as Mayor of the nation’s fifth-largest city introduced ideas and plans last week to reverse the six-year trend, help the homeless, and promote affordable housing in the city.
Stating on social media and through official statements that “Phoenix’ growth has brought opportunity and challenges—homelessness and housing being one. Over the next 90 days, we will work closely with the community, council, and staff to improve and expand our homelessness plan. Community input is critical to this plan’s long-term success. PHX is putting forward new funding, policies, and programming. We ask other cities, counties, and the state to join us,” Gallego has proposed:
- Adding at least three million dollars to the city’s budget to address homelessness. The city’s current annual budget for homelessness is $20 million
- Asking for additional assistance from County and State agencies to help the people who are homeless. This should include placing more monies in the State Housing Fund.
- Composing an expanded plan to address housing and homelessness by June 1, 2020, in collaboration with the community, staff, and elected officials.
- Increase clean up in areas around the Human Services Campus to five days a week.
- Considering the addition of beds to the Downtown Phoenix Homeless shelter.
Speaking to Matthew Brodie of KJZZ-NPR Phoenix, Mayor Gallego further commented on the need for cooperation and coordination with Governor Ducey’s office and Maricopa County agencies, stating:
“The governor has agreed to convene mayors across Maricopa County to sit down and talk about homelessness. Right now, the city of Phoenix is home to 83% of the emergency shelter beds in Maricopa County, but only 40% of the population. I have asked for his help in making sure that every community has facilities for people experiencing homelessness. Some of our neighboring cities have tried to contract or have successfully contracted for beds in Phoenix. And my message to them is we will do our part in Phoenix, but we need you to step up and find solutions in your community as well.”
The Mayor’s office was also asked if they would consider a move to raise the minimum wage in Phoenix. Last year, the City of Phoenix employees received an increase to $15.00 an hour.
Annie DeGraw, the Communications Director for Mayor Gallego responded that:
“We are looking into all solutions to help close the gap between earnings and cost of living. Phoenix’s recent increase of minimum wage for all city employees places us $4 ahead of state minimum wage and has benefited almost 1,000 employees.”
Mayor Gallego and the Phoenix City Council deserve credit for recognizing that no one (especially children and the most vulnerable) should be forced to live like stray animals on the street.
They should be commended for tackling this issue and for wanting to take as many proactive steps to help people before the summer heat is fully felt in the valley.
Hopefully, they will be able to enact enough measures to get assistance to the people that desperately need help very soon.