Plans in the works to close Phoenix homeless shelter

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Plans are in the works to close the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) Mens Overflow Shelter in downtown Phoenix.

The Maricopa County Human Services Department, which owns the building and land where the shelter is located, has set a deadline of April 1, 2015 to shutter the building.

"The building's just not set up for long-term use with that kind of wear and tear, that kind of use. It's just not an appropriate facility to be sustained long term," said David Bridge.

He is the managing director of the 12-acre Human Services Campus, which is located just south of the overflow shelter.

Bridge says when the overflow shelter and the parking lot next to it were opened seven years ago, it was out of necessity.

"Those things were set up to address crises. Back when those were set up, we were having heat deaths on the streets of Phoenix; we lost 30 people in a matter of weeks and months," Bridge said.

Both were meant as temporary options, not permanent solutions.

With deteriorating conditions, Human Services Director Bruce Liggett says it really comes down to the building itself, which he told 3TV is just not safe.

With a deadline in place, the natural question becomes: what about the demand for the shelter?

We're told on average 200 to 250 people stay at the overflow shelter on any given night.

"It's not closing over night. There's a plan to begin to find placements for people who are there now, permanent placements which will be better than temporary shelter," Liggett said.

By placements, Liggett means affordable housing.

He says the process is already underway thanks to $400,000 of new funds.

It starts at intake at the Human Services Campus with what's called the Voluntary Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool.

"It's about a 10- to 20-minute assessment that you can do and it gives you a basic idea of what service need that individual has," Bridge said.

They've already completed nearly 6,000 of those assessments.

From there, the next step is to triage each individual's situation to determine whether they are candidates for what's called "rapid re-housing" or need something more long term.

"They're going to be prioritizing those individuals and starting to house them in the next couple weeks, so they are getting certain activities going," Bridge said.

The stakeholders admit this is a big undertaking, finding the appropriate housing situation for each individual, but they are confident it will work.

"This is a thought-out plan, a responsible plan, that's going to take some time," Liggett said.

As they approach the April 1 target date, Liggett says they will be monitoring things closely.

The county has no immediate plans to close the gated-off parking lot next to the overflow shelter, which can sometimes see as many as 300 people a night. Liggett told 3TV that lot will continue to be used as needed.