Maricopa County’s annual point-in-time count breaks trend in rising homelessness

May 24, 2024, 4:35 AM | Updated: 6:25 am

PHOENIX — New data shows that fewer people are experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County than last year.

In fact, 9,435 people experienced homelessness in Maricopa County on January 22 this year, according to the annual “Point-in-Time” (PIT) homelessness count.

This is about 200 fewer people than in 2023, marking the first time the homelessness count hasn’t increased since 2017.

It marks a 2% reduction in people experiencing homelessness, according to Brian Gruters, the regional homelessness program manager for the Maricopa County Association of Governments (MAG).

“We saw a large reduction in the number of people living unsheltered,” Gruters told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “That was about 17% reduced this year compared to last year.”

Officials define unsheltered individuals as people who live on the streets, in parks, in vehicles or in places not meant for human habitation.

Unsheltered individuals include those living on the streets, in parks, in vehicles, or places not meant for human habitation.

The number of people utilizing shelter space rose by 13%. Gruters said this may be due to improved shelter bed accessibility.

“The fact that we’ve done a lot of work in the last two years as a community to develop more shelter beds is significant,” he said. “I’d say that’s what we’re going back to, and that’s what we’re really taking away from it.”

What’s the purpose of the “Point-in-Time” homelessness count?

Although the PIT count isn’t the main tool used to track homelessness in the Valley, it serves an important role.

It serves as a snapshot in time. Further, it’s a requirement for certain programs to receive funding.

While the recent data suggests a possible dent in the issue, the numbers seem less promising in a historical context.

In fact, the recent numbers show the Valley has yet to come close to reaching the lower levels of homelessness seen before the pandemic.

“Looking at 2018 … you see numbers more in the 7,000 range, and what I look at is: Can we get back to the pre-pandemic numbers? We’re nowhere near that yet,” Gruters said. “It just tells us we have a lot of work left to do as a community.”

The solution starts with more affordable housing, he added.

“Shelter is good, and it’s a significant achievement having people off the street, one that we should celebrate,” Gruters said. “But folks who are experiencing homelessness in a shelter are still experiencing homelessness. We want those people to no longer be experiencing homelessness someday.”

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Maricopa County’s annual point-in-time count breaks trend in rising homelessness