Editorial board, The Republic | azcentral.com 4:31 p.m. MST April 28, 2015
A potential crisis became an opportunity. Because of shifting attitudes toward homelessness, the result could be a significant improvement in how we deal with this enduring human problem.
With the closure of a substandard Men's Overflow Shelter at Central Arizona Shelter Services and the imminent closure of a parking lot where the homeless sleep, Maricopa County is moving resources into more permanent solutions.
Most recently, Maricopa County authorized a $303,000 contract with Lodestar Day Resource Center to provide indoor shelter this summer for those sleeping in a parking lot operated by Central Arizona Shelter Services. The state Department of Housing is providing $262,000.
Several hundred people a night have slept in the East Lot, opened years ago as a temporary emergency facility. Funding was due to run out this summer.
A shift in funding will enable people to find temporary indoor shelter at Lodestar and St. Vincent de Paul on the Human Services Campus this summer. They will receive services designed to get them into permanent affordable housing. This is a big change from simply providing a place to sleep in a parking lot.
It builds on another effort that will help address the needs of those who relied on the overflow shelter closed earlier this year because it didn't meet safety standards.
Funding from Maricopa County, Phoenix and the United Way will make $2.5 million available to address the service and housing needs of those who relied on the overflow shelter and the parking lot. Some people have already moved into housing. The plan is to serve 250 over the next six months.
"It's a very collaborative effort," says Mike McQuaid, board president of the Human Services Campus. The goal is to "provide housing rather than just shelter."
This "housing first" model has shown promise in moving people off the streets and into permanent housing. Once they are off the streets, other needs are more easily met, such as mental health or substance abuse treatment.
It is a humane approach and a pragmatic recognition that homelessness has many costs that can be avoided if people have a safe place to call home.