PHOENIX (April 17, 2020) – Maricopa County Department of Human Services is leading a group of local agencies to develop a two-pronged approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic within the homeless community. Homelessness is a growing challenge in Maricopa County and is a complex issue because it involves housing, health, behavioral health and economics. Nearly every city in America is experiencing this issue right now and in Maricopa County, no single entity bears all the responsibility of addressing it. Coordination between all levels of government, including the federal, state, Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), cities and towns, and local non-profit organizations, is taking place to identify solutions to ensure the safety of an already vulnerable population during this time.
District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo states, “We need to focus on the crisis in front of us and continue to work together. This is a difficult issue, but it is critical we make sure we protect the most vulnerable in our community. The County Human Services team has the full support of the Board to work with partners to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness.”
The Departments of Human Services and Public Health have been leading Maricopa County’s efforts with a regional approach. In addition to providing handwashing stations and advising on screening procedures at the Human Services Campus, they are making sure organizations have access to personal protective equipment.
In addition, starting next week, some people experiencing homelessness in high risk categories will be asked to move to the former A New Leaf facility. A medical tent with 48 overflow beds for non-symptomatic individuals has been created at Circle the City, adding to the 50-bed capacity already available on the Human Services Campus. The County has also secured hotel space at two locations for 53 additional beds for people at high risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.
“These temporary measures meet the goal of reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 among the homeless population,” said Bruce Liggett, Human Services Department Director. “Our regional partners have been instrumental in helping us increase the system by almost 200 beds.”
Human Services estimates there are 300 tents housing people in the downtown Phoenix core near the Human Services Campus. As an additional effort to create physical distancing, Maricopa County will open two empty lots the week of April 20. They will feature bathrooms, handwashing stations, security and lighting.