Arizona homeless

Pedestrians walk along the street next to a homeless encampment as temperatures continue to soar past 115 degrees Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Phoenix.

(The Center Square) – Homelessness is becoming more common in Arizona.

In Maricopa County, there has been a 35% increase in people experiencing homelessness since 2020, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

More than 5,000 people in Maricopa County experienced homelessness in unsheltered situations on the night of Jan. 25, 2022. The sheltered count has not been finalized yet. It comes at a time when homelessness is on the rise nationally. Additionally, homelessness increased in Maricopa County from 2014 to 2020, according to MAG’s press release issued on March 11.

The Maricopa Association of Governments says that it’s trying to combat the problem. In December, the MAG Regional Council unanimously approved “Pathways Home, the Regional Homelessness Action Plan for Local and Tribal Governments.” It’s the first regional homeless plan created by local and tribal governments. It plans to make community investments to combat homelessness.

The plan calls for the creation of 770 units of temporary housing, 1,225 units of permanent housing, greater protections for tenants facing eviction, public-private partnerships to create more job opportunities, and increased access to rental units, among other changes.

“The Point in Time count underscores what we already know – homelessness is a critical issue for the Valley,” Mesa Mayor John Giles, chair of the MAG Regional Council, said in the press release. “This is a regional challenge that needs regional solutions. These numbers are much more than statistics – they represent individuals, each with their own unique story. They are our neighbors, and our community. We all have a role to play in ensuring their access to safe, attainable housing.”

Additionally, Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Board chair Riann Balch said that economic problems must be addressed to combat the issue.

“Rapidly changing market conditions and economic hardship heightened by the pandemic have created opportunities to work together across sectors and geography to address the housing crisis,” he said in the press release. “Housing is the foundation for healthy families and vibrant communities, and there are many new options to explore. This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of movement – we all have something to bring to the table.”