Peoria gears up for annual homeless count, more volunteers to take up outreach

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The city of Peoria is gearing up for the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count, and over the last year has implemented initiatives to help those living on the streets.

The street-and-shelter count determines the number of people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, including Peoria, during a given point in time. It is part of a national effort to identify the extent of homelessness throughout the country.

This year’s count will be Jan. 28.

Neighborhood and Human Services Director Chris Hallett said additional volunteers this year will make the count more accurate.

Last year, around 20 volunteers made the count. This year around 35 volunteers with varying backgrounds will participate.

Mr. Hallett said there will be about 15 city employee volunteers, more than 10 police volunteers and around 10 volunteers from nonprofit homeless service providers.

This will provide a better count, he said.

The homeless population in Peoria increased by 40 individuals from 38 in 2018 to 78 in 2019 — an increase of just over 200%, according to the annual Point-in-Time count.

“This is because we added more volunteers to make the count. We were able to cover the geography of Peoria and we had a much better count,” he said. “This year we will be able to provide resources and a better count at the same time.”

Over the last year, city departments were  restructured to create the new Neighborhood and Human Services Department to help Peoria become more active with larger regional initiatives to address homelessness, as well as other issues.

The city budgeted $75,000 in one-time funds to pay for an agreement with several West Valley cities to hire Phoenix Rescue Mission to make contact with the homeless and offer to get them into the system and off the street.

The mission provides outreach and navigation services to the Valley’s homeless.

Additionally, about $80,000 is being used to partner with Central Arizona Shelter Services for seven beds to be reserved for Peoria homeless referred and navigated from Phoenix Rescue Mission, Peoria police, or the city’s community resource center each night of the week.

“We are working through a very robust training program as we speak ...,” Mr. Hallett said. “We are working with Phoenix Rescue Mission, the Peoria Police Department, a number of city departments on internal and external training on how to utilize and process (homeless) referrals as they come through, also in combination with CASS in getting them transportation to shelter services.”

The police department is collaborating with the city to expand the number of volunteers and put forth a more robust effort to best capture the number of homeless men, women and children in Peoria. 

Sgt. Jeff Carrion, who oversees the Count-in-Time homeless outreach team for the police department, said the city is committed to providing services and resources for all its citizens.

The outreach team is made up of two detectives and one sergeant, he said.

His team facilitates the Homeless Outreach Provider Event, which occurs at least three times a year, at which homeless prevention and intervention service providers meet to provide those in need with an array of services, from haircuts to agency referrals that specialize in different aspects of homelessness.

It is not the practice or policy of the city to arrest anyone for being homeless.

The last outreach event was Oct. 31, 2019, and the next event will be Feb. 21.  

“The city of Peoria is making significant strides to provide resources for those in crisis and experiencing homelessness,” Mr. Carrion said.

The Point-in-Time count is annually coordinated by Maricopa Association of Governments as part of its requirement to receive annual federal funding to address homeless prevention and intervention strategies throughout Maricopa County, Peoria included.

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

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, phaldiman@newszap.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.

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