Tempe‘s efforts to reduce homelessness appear to be working

Efforts expanded to provide employment, housing, other vital resources

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I t may not be obvious to those who traverse Tempe area streets, but recent studies show that the city’s homeless population is slowly declining. At least for now. Nearly 200 fewer people were counted in the most recent enumeration by a team of experts who follow the impact of homelessness. According to a report from Tempe officials, the city’s two most recent Point-in-Time surveys have shown decreases during an 11-month period, down from the previous report.

Staff members say the city has conducted each of their counts using the same methodology as a way to ensure to help ensure consistent and reliable numbers. On June 15, with the support of 60 staff and volunteers, the city counted 355 unsheltered people. That compares with 406 in January and 515 in August 2022. Maricopa County holds a Point-in-Time count each January to provide a one-day snapshot of homelessness in the region, and Tempe is a part of those counts.

Additionally, Tempe holds a summer count, which is described as a way to better understand the community’s needs and guide strategies for improving its development of homeless strategies. At a recent meeting, the Tempe City Council voted unanimously to approve a new contract designed to enhance the city’s homeless solutions. Tempe also plans to hire a nonprofit contractor, Mercy House Living Centers, to staff and manage the city’s non-congregate shelter, Sue’s Espacio. The city’s HOPE homeless outreach team currently manages the shelter. It is said that using a contractor will free up four HOPE team members for more outreach with unsheltered people across the city, along with a supervisor and coordinator who have been sharing responsibilities for shelter oversight. Tempe is working to assist more unsheltered people through three other efforts:

• Expanding the Tempe Works program, an innovative approach which connects unsheltered people with employment, housing and other resources. The city is seeking local business partners to provide new job opportunities.

• Recruiting volunteers to work alongside the city’s HOPE team to connect people in need with shelter, housing and resources. Volunteers must be 18 years and older, fingerprinted and complete an interview.

Submit an application to volunteerHOPE@ tempe.gov.

• Promoting what is envisioned as effective, lasting help for unsheltered people through healthy giving and a public campaign, “Real Change, Not Spare Change.” The concept is based on the awareness that one-off giving at intersections or other public places can delay or a divert a person from seeking shelter and other help.

Healthy giving, according to studies, supports a person’s long-term needs like substance-abuse treatment or housing. As part of that initiative, residents are encouraged to continue giving by joining forces with nonprofits and faith groups. Tempe Community Council’s Together Tempe campaign has been identified as a good place to start to support nonprofits serving people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, say those who have studied proven methodology.



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