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Parking lots housing Phoenix’s homeless population to close

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — A temporary solution to house Phoenix’s homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end.

The three large gated parking lots near downtown Phoenix that for about a year have been housing hundreds of people experiencing homelessness will close by June 30.

Maricopa County set up the parking lots known as the “Safe Outdoor Space” last April.

“The purpose was really to give people an area where they could physically distance in their tents in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Bruce Liggett, Maricopa County Human Services Department director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“But the lots are not shaded and summer is approaching,” he added. “So what we’re doing is offering people in the lots another shelter option indoor, so they can escape the heat and we can continue to work with them on permanent housing solutions.”

About 820 different people have stayed inside the parking lots over the past year. On average, 220 people stayed there on any given night. As the lots begin to close, there are now about 150 there per night.

Liggett said the county is working with the Human Services Campus, which is close to the gated parking lots, and Community Bridges to help people currently staying at the lots find an indoor housing option.

“About 80% of the people will be going into either shelters that exist now or in county hotels that we’ve acquired,” he said.

The county has been renting hotels to house individuals who were vulnerable to COVID-19 and those who’ve tested positive and needed a place to quarantine. Those hotel rooms, in addition to a newly acquired hotel, will now be used for people who’ve been staying at the lots.

Liggett said the $1 million in state funding recently announced by the Arizona Department of Economic Security to expand housing for people experiencing homelessness on and around the Human Services Campus will be a big help.

“That’s going to be a tremendous asset as we start to look for permanent placements for people,” he said.

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