the Valley’s homeless population

The Point-In-Time count from 2014 to 2019 shows a rise in the Valley’s homeless population. Peoria’s unsheltered population more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, according to the Point In Time count. (Chart courtesy Maricopa Association of Governments) (Infographic courtesy Maricopa County)

At last January’s Point-in-Time Homeless Count, an annual street and shelter count in Maricopa County, volunteers counted 78 unsheltered people in Peoria — double the number counted in 2018.

The 2020 count will be taken Tuesday, Jan. 28.

At the Jan. 7 Peoria City Council meeting, Chris Hallett, director of Peoria’s Neighborhood and Human Services Department, gave an update on the process.

“This is the time of year all agencies, cities and counties receiving federal funding are required to do an annual count of the sheltered and unsheltered people in their jurisdiction,” Hallet said.

He noted the higher number counted last year may be due to an increased outreach effort. “We’re working very collaboratively with the police department,” he said.

Hallet said “we had a fairly hefty increase last year” in the number of volunteers.

This year, he said, 35 volunteers signed up to help with Tuesday’s count.

Hallet noted volunteers also provide information on homeless services Peoria offers. Two of the services are new.

As of December, Peoria has an agreement for seven beds per night at Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS).

In October, Peoria started a contract with Phoenix Rescue Mission, which provides homeless outreach services.

Phoenix Rescue Mission contacts and interacts with homeless people, Hallet said. “They will transport them to whatever services they desire or need,” he added.

“The city’s effort is to really lead with services.”

Every January, volunteers around Maricopa County hit the streets to count the “unsheltered” population. While some definitions of “homeless” include those living in shelters, hotels/motels and/or staying with friends or families, the county’s Point-In-Time (PIT) Homeless Count strives to be a true representation of the number of people on the streets.

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) released Peoria’s numbers in November.

According to the data, volunteers counted 78 unsheltered people in Peoria. The 2019 figure is double the 38 unsheltered people counted in 2018. In 2017, 22 unsheltered people were counted - slightly less than the 31 counted in 2016.

Peoria’s 78 unsheltered people was second in the West Valley, behind the 194 unsheltered people counted in Glendale. Avondale reported 35 unsheltered people, Surprise reported 33, Buckeye 24, Goodyear 22 and Youngtown noted 18 unsheltered people.

Peoria’s increase follows a regional trend, according to the report provided by the county.

“From 2106 to 2019, unsheltered homelessness in the Maricopa County region increased by 94%,” the report stated. “In the Central subregion (Phoenix), the growth rate in unsheltered homelessness was 64%. In the East Valley, unsheltered homelessness increased by 167% and in the West Valley, it went up by 213%.”

Volunteers counted 2,030 unsheltered people in Phoenix, 373 in Tempe and 206 in Mesa.

According to MAG, “The count includes a brief survey to identify the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the community. MAG coordinates the PIT Count each year for the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care. MAG serves as the hub of collaboration between the Continuum of Care and local communities.