By most measures, Glendale has done quite well over the last few years.
The city climbed out of a brink-of-bankruptcy hole, fueled by multi-million dollar commercial and upscale residential projects. And, as home of State Farm Stadium and Gila River Arena, Glendale is the clear leader in the West Valley sports and entertainment scenes.
Glendale is also the West Valley’s leader in a grim category: Homelessness.
Every January volunteers around Maricopa County hit the streets to count the “unsheltered” population. While some definitions of “homeless” include those living in shelters, hotels/motels and/or staying with friends or families, the county’s Point-In-Time (PIT) Homeless Count strives to be a true representation of the number of people on the streets.
Early in the morning of Jan. 21, volunteers went out to do their counts for 2019.
Glendale’s numbers were released publically for the first time at the Thursday, Nov. 21, Community Development Advisory Committee (CDAC) meeting.
According to the data, volunteers counted 194 unsheltered people in January. The 2019 figure is nearly five times the 44 unsheltered people counted in 2016. In 2017, 57 unsheltered people were counted —the number of unsheltered spiked to 164 in 2018.
The 194 unsheltered people in Glendale were more than twice as many as were counted in Peoria, which with 78 unsheltered people was the next-highest city for homeless in the West Valley. Avondale was next with 35 unsheltered people, followed by Surprise with 33, Buckeye with 24, Goodyear with 22 and Youngtown with 18 unsheltered people counted. One CDAC committee member thinks the true homeless numbers in Glendale are even higher.
“I think the numbers for the Point In Time count are low,” said Lisa Baker. “There are homeless individuals who avoid being counted, and the count does not include those who are perhaps living in their cars, out of sight, or couch surfing. Glendale was a little late to the game for addressing the homeless issue initially but is making a concerted effort to put as many programs in place as possible.”
Glendale’s increase follows a regional trend, according to the report provided by the county.
“From 2106 to 2019, unsheltered homelessness in the Maricopa County region increased by 94%,” the report stated. “In the Central subregion (Phoenix), the growth rate in unsheltered homelessness was 64%. In the East Valley, unsheltered homelessness increased by 167% and in the West Valley, it went up by 213%.”
Volunteers counted 2,030 unsheltered people in Phoenix, 373 in Tempe and 206 in Mesa.
At last week’s CDAC meeting, Matthew Hess, Glendale’s Revitalization administrator, said the city received the data from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) “about a month ago. I understand going from January to October is quite a bit of time.”
He said a new app will allow Glendale to receive information faster. “They told us they would get (data) to us in two to three months,” said Hess.
The 2020 PIT count is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. Jan. 28, Hess said. “We’re gearing up to get the volunteers ready,” Hess said.
According to an introduction to Hess’ presentation, “In addition to a count of those who are homeless (both sheltered and on the street), the PIT count collects a variety of data used by policymakers, community partners and the public in order to best determine how to address the issues surrounding homelessness. These data are primarily self-reported through interviews and include a variety of information, such as demographics, length of time on the street, number of instances of homelessness, veteran status, familial status, mental and physical health conditions (including HIV status) and experience with substance abuse and domestic violence.”
At a city council workshop scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 26, Rick St. John, Glendale’s former police chief and current interim deputy city manager, was scheduled to present an update on the Glendale Homeless Strategic Action Plan.
The Homeless Strategic Action Plan started in 2016, with the goal of ending homelessness in Glendale.
At last week’s CDAC meeting, Hess said the goal of the 2016 plan was “to end homelessness” in Glendale.
It clearly did not happened, as the just-released county data shows homelessness in Glendale more than quadrupled since council approved the 2016 plan.