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Phoenix Could Hire Homeless Outreach Team For Light Rail

Complaints about homeless people and transients around light rail have dramatically increased.
(Photo by Christina Estes- KJZZ)
Complaints about homeless people and transients around light rail have dramatically increased.

After two years of growing complaints from residents, business owners and neighborhood groups, Phoenix’s transit department will ask the City Council this week to hire a homeless outreach team.

The transit department wants to take money used for private security guards who currently patrol park-and-ride lots to hire two full-time outreach staff. The department says guards will still be stationed at the lots during peak hours and rove during non-peak hours. Camera systems also monitor the lots, which are primarily used by commuters.

The outreach staff will work as a team to engage with homeless people and offer services. As KJZZ has previously reported, police calls for service along 19th Avenuehave increased dramatically since the light-rail extension opened.

The Police Department has added extra enforcement along the 19th Avenue corridor and Valley Metro is now adding signs detailing a code of conduct policy along the whole system. Dubbed “Respect the Ride,” it requires passengers to leave the light-rail vehicle and platform at their destination. Earlier this month, Phoenix announced a program to address homeless encampments, known as PHX C.A.R.E.S.

If the council approves the $125,000 funding for the one-year pilot program, data will be collected and reported to help determine appropriate service levels.

Update: The Phoenix City Council approved hiring a homeless outreach team for light rail at Wednesday's meeting.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.