Ahead of what could be the hottest weekend of the year so far, Maricopa County has secured a recently vacated building in downtown Phoenix to provide nighttime heat relief for people experiencing homelessness. The County, working with its partner, the Human Services Campus, will make a county-owned location at Madison Street and Central Avenue available to dozens of people beginning tonight.
“I appreciate my Board jumping at the opportunity to turn county space into safe space for people experiencing homelessness,” said Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4. “With an extreme heat warning in effect for the weekend, we knew it was crucial to move as fast as we possibly could to get the building cleaned, staffed, and ready to go.”
“People need to have a safe place to go when it gets this hot,” said Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5. “The county building at 1 W. Madison offers just such a place. We’re going to have heat relief phased in starting tonight, with 80 cots available now and eventually space for up to 130 individuals.”
The facility will operate between 6 PM and 7 AM now through September 30th. Masks will be required, and physical distancing inside the building will be maintained. The building will be staffed by the Human Services Campus which will also provide security.
“For the past several months, the County and its partners have been working under challenging conditions to find safer places for those experiencing homelessness, but we still needed a better nighttime heat relief solution,” said Bruce Liggett, Director of Maricopa County Human Services Department. “The truth is, it was difficult to find an empty, air conditioned space in downtown Phoenix—where the majority of homeless people congregate—big enough that we could maintain social distance to limit the risk of COVID-19 spread. Fortunately, we found it at 1 W. Madison.”
The building most recently housed Grand Juries and also included a Justice Court. When the building vacated, the Board of Supervisors jumped at the opportunity to turn it into a location for temporary heat relief.
The City of Phoenix has made the Convention Center available for daytime heat relief and has been a partner in this effort, arranging for the transportation necessary to get people back and forth between 1 W. Madison and daytime locations at the Human Services Campus or the Phoenix Convention Center. Now individuals will be able to access day and night time heat relief.
In years past, the Human Services Campus, St. Vincent DePaul and other Campus partners have worked together, with support from Maricopa County and the State of Arizona, to make evening heat relief available on the Campus for an average of 250 people per night. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and need for physical distancing, shelter capacity was reduced out of necessity and space for heat relief was limited.
The addition of 1 W. Madison to spaces at St. Vincent de Paul and Lodestar Day Resource Center will bring total heat relief capacity to around 250 people per night once again.