Phoenix City Council donates $ 8 million for shelters for homeless seniors


Phoenix City Council has awarded $ 8 million to two local organizations to open new homeless shelters in the western part of the city.

Central Arizona Shelter Services, which operated a temporary shelter for homeless seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, will use its $ 4 million to purchase a hotel in western Phoenix to continue the program on a permanent basis.

Community Bridges Inc. will open a new shelter bridge in northwest Phoenix to temporarily house homeless people while the organization works to secure permanent housing for them.

The money comes from federal funds allocated to the city through the CARES Act, the first federal relief plan passed by Congress to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.

Some Arizona governments and homeless nonprofits have tried to take advantage of the unprecedented influx of federal funds to purchase buildings that can be used as shelters to help the growing homeless population. state even after the pandemic has ended.

This is the first successful example of a city using aid funds for a long-term solution to the homeless.

“We have never been more dynamic or worked so hard as now with the funding opportunities that we have,” said Lisa Glow, CEO of CASS.

Phoenix City Council originally planned to spend $ 14 million in federal funding to acquire or expand homeless shelters, but CASS and CBI were the only two qualified organizations that responded to the request for proposals. from the city.

A city spokesperson said city staff are working on a plan for the remaining $ 6 million to report to the council later this year.

Smaller and scattered shelters

The council-funded shelters will be smaller and more specialized than a traditional homeless shelter, like the one operated by CASS in downtown Phoenix.

It was intentional. Phoenix and a coalition of metropolitan cities in Phoenix have approved strategic plans to tackle homelessness over the past year, focused on creating specialized shelters throughout the region.

Executives in Phoenix in particular have called for greater geographic diversity in shelters. Most of the shelter beds are in downtown Phoenix, which has overcrowded those neighborhoods.

The council backed this by approving funds for new shelters in the western part of the city, and is hoping other metropolitan Phoenix cities follow suit.

“We can send a message that we are ready to be part of the solution and lead by example to our neighbors,” said Betty Guardado, board member, who represents West Phoenix.

The council calls on CASS and CBI to create advisory groups with community members to ensure that the new shelters are effectively integrated into neighborhoods.

Project Haven 2

Lisa Glow, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, discusses issues affecting homeless seniors at CASS on February 27, 2020.

Glow said CASS has identified a hotel in western Phoenix that it would like to purchase and is working to finalize a deal. The association hopes to close the building by the end of September and open by the end of the year, she said.

CASS is expecting additional state financial assistance in addition to the $ 4 million provided by Phoenix, Glow said.

At the end of June, Governor Doug Ducey signed SB 1848, a bill sponsored by Senator David Livingston, R-Peoria, which directs the Arizona Department of Housing to provide emergency shelter beds to people homeless elderly of the West Valley. Glow said the state plans to spend some of its American Rescue Plan Act funds on the western Phoenix shelter.

Glow has been trying to open a retirement shelter since before the pandemic. About two years ago, she realized that an increasing number of people served by CASS downtown were 55 and over.

Seniors are the fastest growing homeless population in the Phoenix area and across the country as house prices soar and those on fixed incomes cannot keep up. Nationally, the epidemic is dubbed the “silver tsunami”.

Before the pandemic, people aged 55 and over occupied nearly 40% of the 500 beds at the downtown CASS shelter.

Glow said she wanted to create a separate shelter where the elderly would be safe from attacks on the streets and receive more personalized attention to fit them into permanent housing.

When the pandemic began, Glow lobbied for part of the city’s federal funding to create a temporary version of his vision that would allow CASS to isolate vulnerable seniors.

Phoenix provided this funding to CASS, allowing the organization to rent 65 rooms at a hotel in northern Phoenix, where it placed the most vulnerable seniors in private rooms with their own bathrooms. The organization then expanded the program with 20 additional rooms.

Phoenix has provided funds for the North Phoenix hotel until September and, with Wednesday’s vote, will provide additional funds to make Project Haven permanent in western Phoenix.

Glow said those currently staying at Project Haven will be offered other accommodation options while CASS transfers the program to the West Valley.

Glow said the neighborhoods around the current hotel support Project Haven and there have been no major complaints about the shelter. She said CASS was already working with neighbors and businesses near the new hotel to alleviate any issues.

“We’re coming in to redevelop a hotel property that has seen a lot of criminal activity in the past. We’re going to make it a better hotel used (as) a facility to provide temporary housing for vulnerable seniors,” Glow said. .

The new hotel has 130 hotel rooms, and Glow said some rooms could accommodate two people if, for example, an elderly couple needs a place to stay.

It will be a closed facility, meaning that only residents who have been allowed to stay at Project Haven will be allowed, and there will be full-time security.

Deck accommodation on duty

CBI will use its funds to open a bridge shelter in northwest Phoenix, where the organization has seen a significant number of homeless people homeless, senior director of housing and community living Elizabeth DaCosta told the municipal Council.

“There are long-term homeless people in this area who have experienced a deep sense of community who also often go to school or have family members in the area. They find it difficult to access hosting services due to the distance from where they are currently, ”said DaCosta.

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Phoenix and the Maricopa Association of Governments have both pushed for more bridging housing in their regional homelessness plans.

Transitional housing is typically a short-term program for people who may need additional supports, such as addiction treatment or mental health resources, before moving on to independent living.

DaCosta told the council that the new bridge shelter will provide on-site physical and mental health services in addition to drug treatment.

CBI operates other bridge shelters in the valley. DaCosta said that in the first year of opening one of these shelters, CBI served 168 people, including 145 chronically homeless, meaning the person has a disability and has been homeless since at least a year.

DaCosta said 74% of those people have moved from the bridge shelter to permanent accommodation. The average length of stay was about 38 days.

CBI did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the new shelter, but other CBI shelters have around 35 beds.

Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.

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