Frequenty Asked Questions


How many homeless individuals are there in the Valley?
On any given day, there are approximately 6,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County.  This is down from 8,000 in 2009.


Is it truly possible to end homelessness?
An end to homelessness does not mean that no one will ever experience a housing crisis again. An end to homelessness means that our community will have a systematic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience. This is called “functional zero.”

Specifically, we will:

  • Quickly identify and engage people at-risk of and experiencing homelessness.
  • Intervene to prevent the loss of housing and divert people from entering the homelessness services system.
  • Provide immediate access to shelter and crisis services, without barriers to entry, while permanent stable housing and appropriate supports are being secured.
  • When homelessness does occur, quickly connect people to housing assistance and services—tailored to their unique needs and strengths—to help them achieve and maintain stable housing.


What is “functional zero”?
Functional Zero considers that on any given day, people could experience a housing crisis. When we achieve “functional zero” it means that our community will have a systematic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.


What is Valley of the Sun United Way doing to end homelessness?

  • Leadership:  Valley of the Sun United Way convenes and leads the community-wide Homelessness Advisory Council, which is made up of partners from public, private and non-profit sectors. By bringing all the decision-makers to the same table, with the same goals, we will leverage our collective expertise and funding to end homelessness. It is our collective impact that leads to solutions.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing:  We are driving the creation of 1,600 Permanent Supportive Housing units and investing $1.5 million annually in the support services that keep the most chronically homeless individuals in housing. We’re also working to build a $15 million endowment to provide sustainable funding to ensure those support services are available long-term.
  • Prevention and Emergency Needs:  Throughout the year, we run events called Project Connects to bring service partners and volunteers together with individuals experiencing or on the brink of homelessness. At Project Connect, people can obtain food, clothing, access to shelter, wellness checks, job-related assistance and other services to keep or move them out of homelessness. We also invest $3 million each year in homelessness prevention, intervention and emergency shelters.
  • Advocacy: United Way is working with a variety of local and state departments to allocate funding for housing and supportive services. We were instrumental advocating for the City of Phoenix to allocate a percentage of its Housing Choice Vouchers to permanent supportive housing. Currently, we are funding the Medicaid Demonstration Project, which will allow Medicaid to be used to pay for support services for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.


What is an example of Collective Impact?
One example is the Medicaid Demonstration Project. United Way is funding the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CHS) to work with the necessary agencies that would allow Medicaid to pay for support services for eligible individuals: single adults without children whose income qualifies them for Medical Assistance through Arizona’s Medicaid system. The project targets people with General Mental Health and Substance Abuse (GMHSA) needs. The idea is that if we can make this project work for a small group of individuals, we can then expand this funding source as a sustainable source of revenue for future Permanent Supportive Housing populations.


What is United Way’s role in the Housing Choice Vouchers through the City of Phoenix?
For six years, United Way advocated for the City of Phoenix to allocate a percentage of the city’s total Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) for the chronically homeless. In January, the City Council voted unanimously to allocate up to 275, or 5 percent, of the city’s HCV for this segment of the population. This is a major advance in the Permanent Supportive Housing approach that takes the most chronically homeless individuals, puts them in housing and provides the support services they need to remain housed and to get healthy. 

Chronic Homelessness Through Permanent Supportive Housing

What does it mean when you say someone experiences chronic homelessness and why is United Way so focused on that group?
Chronic homelessness means that individual has lived without a home for at least a year or multiple times in recent years and has a disability. Many face medical, psychological and/or addiction hurdles that keep them on the streets. Studies show that this group uses a disproportionate amount of a community’s emergency services, including trips to the ER and shelter space. When they have housing and support, it frees these vital emergency services up for families and individuals experiencing homelessness for the first time and enables us to get them back on their feet more rapidly. It speeds the entire prevention, intervention and emergency cycle.

This also makes good fiscal sense. Research shows keeping someone chronically homeless costs an average $40,000 per year for emergency systems such as the ER, police, incarcerations and more. Place that same person in Permanent Supportive Housing and the annual cost drops to less than $15,000 per year. 


What are your goals for Permanent Supportive Housing?  When will you reach them?
A few years back, we set the goal to create 1,000 permanent Supportive Housing units by 2016. I’m pleased to say that more than 1,200 are in the pipeline – meaning they are occupied, are under construction or have been earmarked to transition from another type of housing to permanent supportive housing in the near future. Now, we are shifting our overall goal to work with partners to move our community to “functional zero.”


Do people in Permanent Supportive Housing live there forever? 
That depends on each individual and the support services needed to keep that individual from returning to homelessness. Our intention is the help individuals move on to independence either in or out of Permanent Supportive Housing through employment, re-unification with family and a returning to medical, mental or behavioral health.


The city of Phoenix announced it ended chronic homelessness among veterans.  Why do I still see people on the street holds signs saying they are homeless vets?
There are several possible answers. The individual might have recently experienced a housing crisis. Our goal is to rapidly move that person out of homelessness and into stable housing. They might have been dishonorably discharged or for some other reason are not eligible for veteran benefits. Or, they might not be veterans or homeless.


Are you helping families experiencing homelessness?  How?
Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness use a disproportionate amount of homelessness services, making it difficult for families experiencing a housing crisis to get the immediate help they need. By moving the chronically homeless into Permanent Supportive Housing, families will have access to services to help them avoid or move quickly out of homelessness. We also support emergency family shelter, transitional housing, and the Family Housing Hub. The Family Housing Hub is the coordinated intake and assessment center for families experiencing homelessness.


When a homeless person asks for money, I’m never sure what to do.  Do you have any advice?
If you give someone money, have no expectation for what that person does with it; have no judgment. Think of it as a gift. Or ask the person if they need a bottle of water, a sandwich, a bus pass. Be friendly, ask their name. 

Men’s Overflow Shelter

What is the Men’s Overflow Shelter and why is it closing?
Maricopa County and the Arizona Department of Housing opened the MOS in 2007 to accommodate individuals experiencing homelessness during the intense summer heat. What originated as a short-term life-saving solution, evolved into a long-term nightly solution for many individuals in our community. The structure was not ever zoned to be a shelter and requires rehabilitation and repairs too costly to keep it open.


What will happen to the people who use it for shelter?
While Valley of the Sun United Way isn't responsible for operation of the MOS, I want you to know that we are at the table with many partners to develop solutions that not only help more than 500 individuals transition away from the MOS and its east parking lot, but move them out of homelessness permanently.

There are a variety of solutions being developed for these individuals:

  • The first step is a new assessment tool that evaluates each individual and determines the interventions that will most effectively end their homelessness.
  • Many individuals simply need what’s called “diversion” such as medical attention, help getting a job, GED assistance, rent assistance or re-unification with family.
  • Rapid Rehousing quickly moves individuals or families into short-term housing, then helps them address the situation that originally led them to homelessness – jobs, financial management, education and more.
  • Redesigning our current shelter model to include Low Demand Shelter options which  provide a place and services for individuals who would typically be turned away from a shelter due to mental illness, addiction and behavioral health issues. These individuals are the hardest to serve and currently, for many, the only option is the street.
  • You've heard us talk a lot about Permanent Supportive Housing. This approach takes the most chronically homeless individuals, puts them in housing and provides the support services they need to remain housed and to get healthy. 

What is United Way’s role in the MOS?
United Way is at the table with public and non-profit partners to implement all the solutions noted above. We are funding the new assessment tool and working to secure funding for each of the housing interventions listed above.

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