ARIZONA NEWS

Volunteers needed for annual Valley point-in-time homelessness count

Jan 3, 2024, 8:00 PM | Updated: 9:20 pm

Maricopa County leaders need thousands of volunteers to collect data for its annual homelessness "P...

A volunteer with the Phoenix Rescue Mission speaks with a person experiencing homelessness. (Phoenix Rescue Mission Photo/via Facebook)

(Phoenix Rescue Mission Photo/via Facebook)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County leaders need volunteers to collect data for the annual homelessness point-in-time count.

The Maricopa Association of Governments —  or MAG — coordinates the yearly data collection, which is intended to give officials a clear picture of the homelessness crisis in the region.

MAG relies on thousands of volunteers to count the number of people experiencing homelessness in alleys, parks, streets, riverbeds, shelters and other areas.

The organization’s chair, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, said the count is a small snapshot of the homelessness crisis.

“We know that gathering data is an important way to drive progress,” Gallego said in a statement. “As MAG brings together Valley leaders to confront homelessness head-on, monitoring and assessing trends can help us better understand the challenge and ultimately inform our policy decisions.”

Anyone is welcome to take part in the data collection. Volunteers from local governments, nonprofits and faith-based communities will fan out across the Valley in teams. They’re encouraged to briefly survey people to determine the most urgently needed resources.

Why is the point-in-time count important?

Last year’s point-in-time count identified 9,642 people experiencing homelessness in the area. This represented an overall increase of about 7%, officials said. They observed a rise in people living in shelters and a decline of those living on the streets.

The count is one of the many data sources MAG uses to fully understand the scope of homelessness, according to Vicki Phillips, the co-chair of the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care.

“Our primary source of homelessness data comes from the Homeless Management Information System, which is gathered daily when someone interacts with the homeless services system,” Phillips said in a statement. “Using this database, we produce a quarterly homelessness trends report that highlights trends in the populations experiencing homelessness as well as system performance measures in Maricopa County. All of these data points help us better understand the greatest needs and best manage limited resources.”

Once the data is collected, the final point-in-time count will be out in April, officials said.

Volunteers can join the point-in-time count by contacting a coordinator in their area.

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Volunteers needed for annual Valley point-in-time homelessness count