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United Way sets goal to reduce homelessness

Phoenix — It’s a lofty goal. The Valley of the Sun United Way wants to end homelessness in Maricopa County.

Right now, there are an estimated 8,000 homeless people in the county. The United Way thinks it can cut that number by 75 percent by the year 2020.

“What we’re saying then is that by 2020, we would like that number to be less than 2,000,” said United Way Vice President of Community Impact Amy Schwabenlender. “There is an inventory of shelter beds of more than 2,000. So, in theory, anyone who would experience homelessness in 2020 and beyond would be able to get a shelter bed and not be sleeping on the streets.”

Schwabenlender said the United Way has already placed over 100 chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing by repairing two apartment complexes in Phoenix.

A third, called Encanto Point, is under construction.

The homeless get a permanent apartment and some help in paying rent. That frees up beds at shelters that can be used by those who are temporarily homeless.

Schwabenlender said if you don’t think their lofty goal can be reached, take a look at Salt Lake City.

“They’re reduced chronic homelessness by 65 percent by focusing on that population first, targeting the resources, and creating the housing units,” said Schwabenlender.

When people express doubt the United Way’s goal can be reached, Schwabenlender responds by first admitting that, “We can’t prevent everyone’s crisis. We can’t prevent everyone’s bad choices. But we can have a safety net that’s really strong and solid, so if they have a crisis, and they need to go to an emergency shelter, they can access a bed, and use the services that are in place there at the shelter and in the community, and (get out of the shelter) in less than 20 days.”

The 20 days is a federal goal through Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

Schwabenlender said Salt Lake City is working to solve its homeless situation, and there’s no reason why it can’t be done here.

The United Way is looking for financial and other help to achieve its goal. You can check out its website by Clicking Here.

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