Tempe unveils new tools working to tackle growing homelessness issue

City employees say they wish they could work to get ahead of the homelessness issue, but they’re hoping the new tools they’re introducing can slow it down.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:56 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Tempe is the latest city trying to tackle the growing problem of homelessness. At last count, the city had nearly 400 people living in streets, cars and parks.

Employees with the city say they wish they could work to get ahead of the issue, but instead, they’re hoping the new tools they’re introducing can slow it down. “Regionally, we could be doing a lot better, coordination-wise, collaboration,” said Chief Deputy City Manager Rosa Inchausti.

Many of the unsheltered have street names, making it difficult to know if crisis teams have already made contact. Inchausti says the best way to avoid putting people through the system twice means getting to know them. “We’re looking at a person who is suffering from being unsheltered or substance abuse or severely mentally ill, and we’re getting to know that individual,” she said.

Earlier this month, Tempe announced their approach for the HOPE team, adding a 24/7 phone line for reporting someone who needs help. That line has received more than 200 calls in two weeks. “Our call volume has increased by 48%, which means increase in workload; it also means that it’s making a difference,” said Kris Scharlau, CARE 7 Manager.

All of the data they collect is also available online, in real-time. It’s on a dashboard where anyone can see where new reports are popping up. “If we’re not capturing the data, analyzing the data, and then determining is what we’re doing efficient? Then we’re not really responding to the needs of the community. We’re just doing what we think is best,” Scharlau said.

A dedicated phone number, “The CARE & HOPE Line,” operates 24/7. Anyone can call to inform the city about a person who needs help or may be experiencing homelessness. It’s 480-350-8004. Or you can email HOPE@tempe.gov. There is also an online tool to directly report encampments. The dashboard with data for homeless outreach and encampment efforts can be found at homeless-solutions.tempe.gov.