Tempe sees decrease in unsheltered population, credits outreach team

Tempe officials say the city has seen a more than 30% drop in homelessness in large part because of its outreach team offering around-the-clock assistance.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 4:38 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona is one of the worst states in the nation for the ongoing homeless crisis, but one Valley city is celebrating a reduction in the number of people living on their streets.

Tempe Community Health and Human Services Director Tim Burch says they’re seeing a more than 30% drop. “Over the last 16 months, over 1,000 people have come into shelter into some other housing options,” he said.

Burch says the City of Tempe has been using data from the Point In Time count, an event where volunteers survey people living on the streets or in shelters. “I can directly attribute the success we’ve had here in Tempe to our council people, as well as the dynamic team members we have on our HOPE team, our care team,” he said.

The HOPE Outreach team offers around-the-clock assistance. “Thanks to our 14,000 contacts that seven days a week, around the clock, outreached to individuals who are on our streets to offer them shelter and other well-being resources,” Burch said.

Their 24/7 HOPE & CARE Line also connects people with housing options. “Over half the calls to the HOPE & CARE Line are about and from individuals seeking assistance with housing and support,” he said.

He says the program’s expansion began last year. “Our really digging into the data and tracking the success and outcomes of our street outreach, into our transitional bridge shelter and into housing really started about 18 months ago when we really started cleaning out the Salt River bottom,” he said.

Over 75 people lived in that area, and Burch says over 50 accepted help. For some, that help means going to the transitional bridge shelter. “That shelter can house over 60 people at a time, and that is really a key piece of our approach, but it’s just one of many,” Burch said.

The city also has a grant from Maricopa County to expand its housing. The plan is to eventually buy another motel to convert the bridge shelter into an affordable housing project, an investment to continue the success they’re seeing.

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