PHOENIX — There are now over 1,000 people living in the largest homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix, according to homeless advocates.
On Tuesday, there were just over 1,070 people who were living outside the Human Services Campus, with another 700 people inside the shelter seeking assistance.
A task force set up to address homelessness in Phoenix presented recommendations on Wednesday to top city leaders that includes having a designated shelter in each council district.
On Tuesday, the task force shared their 27-page report with a Phoenix City Council subcommittee where they recommended a number of ways to prevent and help those who are living on the streets.
Some of the key findings include adding more shelter beds, designating funds for more flexible financial assistance to prevent evictions and having a private-property cleanup program.
Along with working on outreach, the task force made up homeless advocates, neighbors and different community leaders said that at least one structured campground to provide temporarily relief should be considered as well.
The City of Phoenix currently has almost 1,500 active shelter beds. “The Homelessness Taskforce recommends that the City continuously monitor the amount of active shelter beds and evaluate the need for additional units with the goal of adding new beds equal to 35 to 50 percent of new units of the Phoenix unsheltered Point in Time count over the period of three years. Please consider using the following Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) data in determining costs associated with addition of these beds,” the report stated.
Those with the task force acknowledge that building or acquiring more shelters will take time, up to two years. Time is something advocates say we don’t have, “we can’t wait for big plans to be approved, and someone to look through the finances of it and figure out how to fund it,” said Amy Schwabenlender, executive director, Human Services Campus.
“What can we do right now, today, so that we can be preventing more people from falling into homelessness and how do we find more indoor spaces today for people to be inside,” said Schwabenlender.
For those who live nearby the encampment, like Jessica Spencer, she spends her own free time trying to help those in need.
“If we could do permanent heat relief stations in public areas, we would save so many more people,” said Spencer. As for what she thinks is needed, "Shade, water, shade, housing, mental health resources.”
Spencer who is a Navy Veteran said she’s disappointed in the urgency to help those who are unsheltered.
The task force asked to meet with the same city leaders in six months with an update from their recommendations.