Maricopa County and its partners are making new connections with those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, giving hundreds of people safer places to live while also planning ahead for the summer heat and long-term needs.
“These are no longer just people living on the streets; we know their names and history. Human Services staff are engaging clients to determine what will help them get on their path to solving their homelessness, with support and assistance,” said Bruce Liggett, Human Services Director. “Our overall goal is to reduce the number of people who will return to shelters or the street.”
A voluntary tent relocation program near the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix creates a safer outdoor space that, to date, is giving 231 individuals access to tents, cots, cold water, toilets, hand washing stations, social services staff, and security. The tents are physically distanced on county-owned lots. Maricopa County Human Services Department and other funders are currently in discussions with the Human Services Campus to address options for protecting people in this area from the summer heat.
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Maricopa County works with health care partners to provide medical care for individuals as well. Those living in tents on county lots who display COVID-19 symptoms are tested and placed in alternative sites for care. Maricopa County has acquired 126 beds to care for those who need additional care. In total, the County and its partners, Human Services Campus and Circle the City, have secured more than 200 additional beds across the region in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
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“We know that the County is not alone in providing these alternatives. Other cities--notably Phoenix--are providing support and resources to expand options for people, and non-profits are serving people who are homeless and vulnerable. Once the crisis abates, with CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act] funding for housing and housing subsidies, people in alternative care can be placed into more permanent housing, homeless shelters can return to higher capacity, and the needs of many people that we were not sheltered or housed previously can be addressed, ” Liggett added.