PHOENIX — It’s the middle of the day in downtown Phoenix and Jayarr Steiner is bringing color to a neighborhood that’s often dark and full of pain.
“You see it in videos, but it’s a totally different situation when you pull up here,” Steiner said. “It’s a totally different energy. You can feel it.”
It’s Steiner’s first time really seeing how people live on 12th Avenue and Madison Street.
“A lot of my art is consumed by people who can afford it, you know what I mean,” Steiner said. “It’s in areas where everything’s great. Everything’s safe you know what I mean? And I was pretty passionate about finding a place that’s the opposite of that.”
That is why he's painting a mural on a now-vacant building, formerly the men’s overflow shelter for the Human Services Campus. The nonprofit hosts 16 agencies in downtown Phoenix, all dedicated to helping individuals experiencing homelessness.
According to the Central Arizona Shelter Services, the number of people living on the streets in Maricopa County has increased by 149% since 2015. CASS officials say every day, people are turned away from the shelter because there isn’t enough space.
Last year, ABC15 was there as the city of Phoenix cleaned up the area and offered services to those in need. Advocates say things have gotten worse since the pandemic, which is why Phoenix City Council recently approved hundreds of new shelter beds.
Steiner says he doesn’t know what the solution is.
“I’m not a political person,” Steiner said. “I’m a bit of a degenerate myself. I was homeless in my early 20’s living out of my car.”
But he hopes those who can help will be drawn to the area to see his work.
“I just know that at a minimum, my work will bring some awareness to people who do know what to do,” he said.