St. Vincent de Paul ahead on initiative to house people in metro Phoenix

Oct 24, 2023, 4:35 AM

Valley-based nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul is ahead on its housing initiative. (KTAR file photo)...

Valley-based nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul is ahead on its housing initiative. (KTAR file photo)

(KTAR file photo)

PHOENIX — Valley-based nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul is a year into its initiative to house 2,025 people by the end of 2025 and is on pace to accomplish that goal early.

According to a press release sent out by the organization, it has moved 1,289 people into long-term housing as part of the Housing 2025 initiative. That’s 277 people ahead of schedule.

“We started this goal last year, October 1st, as a way for St. Vincent de Paul to try to do our part in responding to the homelessness crisis in Arizona,” Julia Matthies, associate chief program officer for the nonprofit, said.

The initiative has three focus areas:

1. Get people into permanent housing.
2. Increase the nonprofit’s housing rate by 20%.
3. Get the community on board with a shared goal to create support systems for unhoused people.

Matthies explains the housing-first approach is a direct response to the Valley’s ongoing homelessness crisis and indicates a ramping-up of the work already done by the nonprofit.

“That goal we chose because it represented an increase of our housing rate by 20%,” Matthies said. “So basically, that would get us 20% past what we normally do.”

The response relies on partnerships both internally between the organization’s own departments and members of the community.

“None of us do this alone, really,” Matthies said. “We have mental health providers that we work with, the VA, lots of different people are working. It takes a village to get someone into housing, sometimes.”

The nonprofit has managed to address the needs of both people who experience homelessness chronically and the growing number of people who are homeless for the first time or recently became homeless. The majority of people housed come from families with parents and children.

Matthies added that the people who are becoming homeless now usually are easier to get housed and without the need to go through the whole services ecosystem.

“If someone got squeezed out of the rental market because of our increasing prices and the community, we’re able to catch them,” Matthies said. “They have a job, we just help them reconnect to another apartment right away and really divert them from the homelessness system.”

However, she also indicates that this month’s eviction rates, which will likely set a record in Maricopa County, could outpace their work. That means despite high numbers of people getting rehoused, it could be hard to see that reflected in big picture numbers.

She says the solution to that lies in the partnerships between service providers and the community. Matthies also adds there needs to be increased protections for people going through eviction courts.

Of the initiative, she says it’s good work, but there needs to be more.

“We know this isn’t the end all, be all,” Matthies said. “But we want to show this is a solution that does work.”

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St. Vincent de Paul ahead on initiative to house people in metro Phoenix