PHOENIX — As housing costs climb, so is the number of seniors desperately in need of housing after being priced out. It’s an issue that's driving many older Arizonans to seek help inside shelters, like Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS).
CASS CEO Lisa Glow says the rising cost of living has triggered a "silver tsunami" of homelessness across the United States.
“I don’t think anyone plans to be homeless,” Glow told ABC15, yet she says the number of people who are homeless keeps climbing.
“There are 5,000 people on the streets,” she said, adding that went up 35% in the last two years.
“Then there’s another 4,000 who can get in shelter, including the shelter in CASS,” said Glow.
Though she says the latter is an undercount.
Just outside of CASS, she says hundreds are waiting for housing.
“About 900 people. It’s the largest encampment we’ve ever seen in Phoenix. It’s really sad,” she added.
More and more of them are seniors.
“Their rents are going up. They’re getting evicted. Their incomes are just too small on fixed incomes,” said Glow.
It’s a reality across the nation — the “silver tsunami” of homelessness.
“The percentage of seniors over age 55 across the nation who are experiencing homelessness… 30%,” said Glow.
That number goes up to 35% at CASS. Glow says it’s mostly because seniors are being priced out.
“And they’re becoming homeless in droves,” Glow told ABC15.
Here’s where Project Haven comes in.
“This is the first emergency shelter exclusively for seniors that we know of across the nation,” said Glow, when describing the new housing project.
ABC15 took a look around. Some windows were boarded up and rooms still getting ready to be renovated.
Project Haven will aim to provide folks 55 and older, who are homeless, with their own space. Each room will have all the essentials like a bed to sleep in, a microwave, and a refrigerator.
“They’ll have a bathroom of their own, a television, a coffee pot. Meals will be provided here. Health care… behavioral health support,” said Glow.
This old inn (previously the Phoenix Inn) turned haven is owned by CASS.
It will temporarily house 170 seniors and, in turn, free up space at their main shelter. Though Glow says there’s still more work to be done.
“The future is daunting if we don’t build more housing, more interim shelters,” she added.
Glow says this major acquisition and renovation couldn't have been possible without governing agencies working together to make this happen.
CASS hopes to have 50 rooms available by the end of the year.
In part three of our Priced Out series, you’ll hear from a man who was homeless and has since started a non-profit to help get people off the streets.
Read part one of the Priced Out series here: Woman goes extra mile to survive after being priced out of Phoenix-area housing