Phoenix-area homeless street count scheduled for Tuesday

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Tuesday morning, hundreds of volunteers throughout the Phoenix area will search alleys, parks, riverbeds and other areas in an attempt to get an accurate count of the number of people experiencing homelessness.

Jan. 23 will be 2018’s annual “Point in Time Homeless Street Count,” an event designed to help provide an idea of the number of homeless men, women and children on the streets.

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The count is organized by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and utilizes volunteer teams - including city, county and state representatives, community and faith-based organizations, businesses and private residents.

“The volunteers canvas areas to count and interview people experiencing homelessness, many of whom are living in situations not suitable for human habitation,” says Buckeye Mayor and chair of the MAG Regional Council, Jackie Meck.

Chandler Vice Mayor and co-chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board, Kevin Kartke, says the volunteers do their best to engage the individuals they come across.

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“We want to know their personal stories. The more we understand about each specific situation, the better we can tailor resources to help people access services and find housing. At the same time, we also can identify trends and get an overall understanding of the resources most needed in our communities,” says Kartke.  

According to MAG, the last count showed a reduction in the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in the region – from 5,702 in 2016 to 5,605 in 2017. However, the count also found an increase in the number of individuals and families living in “unsheltered” situations, or on the street – 1,646 in 2016 to 2,059 in 2017.

[RELATED: US homeless count rises for first time in 7 years]

“The count is the most accurate means we have for determining how many people need resources and what kinds of services are most effective,” says Meck.

Continuum of Care Board Co-Chair and vice president of Community Impact for Valley of the Sun United Way, Amy Schwabenlender, says “the annual street count is critical in securing federal funding for permanent housing resources. It can be used along with other data to prioritize resources to make the most of the dollars provided.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Maricopa region $25.8 million for 41 local homelessness programs, last week.

The region has been awarded roughly $400 million to provide permanent housing and services for people who are homeless since 1999.

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