PHOENIX (3 TV / CBS 5) Community advocates are warning that a homeless crisis could be brewing in Arizona, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This is a tsunami of terror that wakes our team up at night," said Wendy Johnson, Executive Director of Justa Center, a community center for homeless seniors. 

Johnson says they're already dealing with the challenges of deadly summer heat combined with a global pandemic, and she's concerned there'll be a surge of people in need of help once Governor Doug Ducey's moratorium on evictions expires July 22nd. 

"We've got some serious affordable-living issues, and they're gonna range from single adults to families with children and the elderly and we're very concerned for them," Johnson said. 

Some real estate experts estimate that the state could see tens of thousands of evictions once the order expires

Johnson wants Ducey to extend the executive order, pausing evictions for people affected by COVID-19. She wants the state to combine more money and outreach to help people pay their bills and rent so they don't end up homeless. 

"We need a stay. A stay of executions, because that's what evictions are going to do. It's going to kill people," Johnson said. "We can help if we have time. Because up until now, all we've been doing is try to stop the virus. Now we've got to have time to deal with the affects of the virus on our economy and our lifestyle." 

The governor's office didn't respond to a request for comment on whether they were extending the executive order on evictions. 

Meanwhile, some already blame the pandemic for putting them out on the streets. 

"It's the most humbling experience I've ever gone through," said Mark Fong, who's been homeless since May. 

The 60-year-old Fong says he's never been homeless before. 

He was working at Walmart, but when the pandemic hit, he got laid off and unemployment was slow to come, leaving him without money for the pay-by-week hotel he was staying in. 

"I didn't know what to do. I had not a penny in my pocket. I used every bit of money I had to pay for my last week at that hotel. And that night, I ended up sleeping on a bus bench."

Fong is now being sheltered at a hotel and is saving up money. He's also now receiving his unemployment checks. But he worries more people will soon be in his shoes. 

"My heart goes out to them," Fong said. "They're going to go though the same frustration and feeling of powerlessness that I went through." 

 

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