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Can A Few Months Support Lead To Permanent Housing For The Homeless In Phoenix?

Rapid-rehousing paired with temporary financial assistance can help homeless men and women establish themselves in a permanent home.

That’s the finding from a study of a pilot program commissioned by the Valley of the Sun United Way and released Tuesday.

From a group of about 250 single men and women, almost 75 percent received financial assistance and were able to maintain permanent housing a year after the program began.

“Now we know it works and we can make the case for it working,” said Amy Schwabenlender, vice president of community impact at Valley of the Sun United Way. “The need still exists.”

For almost a decade, hundreds of men slept in a Phoenix warehouse turned overflow shelter.

The county cited the Central Arizona Shelter Services for multiple health violations before it shuttered the building in 2015.

It was because of these conditions, the Valley of the Sun raised $2.5 million from public and private sources including the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County, the Arizona Community Foundation and the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust.

“We had this theory of change that rapid rehousing could work for single adults,” Schwabenlender said. Previously, there were few rapid rehousing programs targeting this population, she said.

RELATED: Homeless In Plain Sight

They contracted with local aid organizations A New Leaf, UMOM and Mercy House to provide services. Participants received rental assistance and case managers who helped them find other resources. It cost between $4,000 and $7,000 to re-house each person.

Valley of the Sun United Way hired Focus Strategies to track and evaluate the program. Here’s some of what was learned :

Who participated in the program?


  • 373 people

      -40 percent had been homeless for more than a year in the last three years.
      -Half reported some income, while half reported no income
       -¾ were men with an average age of 45 years old

What happened to them?


  • 121 dropped out of the program before receiving financial assistance or housing.
  • 252 received financial assistance and of those

       -73.4 percent remained in permanent housing
       -24 percent returned to homelessness.

The report found a person’s income at the beginning of the program did not have a significant implication for success or failure.

“However if at the end of the time that they were in the program they still had no income than that was predictive of them having a greater likelihood of getting housing or not staying in that housing,” said Katharine Gale, principal associate at Focus Strategies.

People who had experienced domestic violence were also more likely to return to homelessness.

The program is ongoing and another installment of research is expected in the fall.

For more information check out KJZZ's Homeless In Plain Sight series.

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Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.