The number of homeless people in Glendale fell slightly this year—but unsheltered people were counted in January, months before the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns and unemployment in the city, county and state.
Results of a Jan. 27 count show Maricopa County’s unsheltered population increased significantly over the last year, from 3,188 to 3,767. More than two-thirds of the homeless were counted in Phoenix.
Glendale continues to have the highest number of homeless people in cities west of Phoenix, though the number of homeless counted here dropped from 194 last year to 170 this year. The number of unsheltered people in Glendale remains more than twice as many as the 83 counted in Peoria.
The county-wide homeless “Point in Time” count is organized by the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Jean Moreno, Glendale’s director of community services, called the drop “nominal.”
“Although the report shows a reduction in the count of unsheltered homeless persons in Glendale, (with) 24 fewer than the year prior, when viewed in the context as a proportion of the entire region’s PIT count and the rate per 1,000 population—the changes were nominal. It is also of critical importance to note that PIT report is merely one piece of information that can be used to gain insights into the condition of homelessness,” Moreno said.
Lisa Baker, a Glendale-based real estate agent and vice chairwoman of the city’s community development advisory committee, credits agencies the city is funding for homeless services.
“Phoenix Rescue Mission does a lot of great work. PRM has recently been allocated over $210,000 in CARES Act funds by the city council to expand the Glendale Works program,” she said.
“Glendale Works is having success in helping homeless individuals earn money and hopefully get other assistance and services they may need to help them get off of the street.”
Even so, she noted Glendale Works is a topic of controversy: “The program is viewed by some as an exploitation of low-cost labor by the city, especially since workers are being moved from the parks to the landfill, further maximizing the financial benefit for the city, while it is being funded in part by grants.”
What remains to be seen is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the homeless population.
Baker is optimistic that federal CARES funds will be put to good use.
“It’s safe to say there’s a lot riding on touting the success of Glendale Works/PRM in the fight against homelessness in the city of Glendale. Right now, it’s about $345,916 in 2020 alone,” Baker said.
An update on Glendale Works was one of the topics at a Tuesday, Sept. 8, city council workshop.
Point in Time count
Over 60 volunteers gathered in the early, cold morning Jan. 28 to help count the homeless in Glendale.
The volunteers were asked to interact with as many homeless individuals as possible, ask them questions and offer services.
In January 2019, volunteers counted 194 unsheltered people in Glendale. That was 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.
According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, the counts are submitted annually to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses the information to allocate and prioritize funding for homeless programs.
In cities across the state, the annual count utilizes volunteer teams that include city, town, county and state representatives; community and faith-based organizations; businesses; and private residents.
For the first time, the annual count was conducted electronically using a cellphone application.
Matthew Hess, administrator in Glendale’s revitalization department, said the count is important for several reasons.
“Not only do you have the total number of homeless, but some of the issues, age, demographics, health situations that are being experienced by the homeless,” Hess said.
Hess said the city coordinated on the count with the Glendale Police Department and community services like Phoenix Rescue Mission.
When homeless people were contacted, they were offered a variety of community services and a bag of toiletries.