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513 Homeless People Have Died In Maricopa County So Far This Year; Double 2019 Tally

More than 500 homeless people have died in the county during the first nine months of 2020. That’s double the total number of deaths recorded in the county for all of last year, said Central Arizona Shelter Services CEO Lisa Glow.

Thirty percent of this year’s deaths were heat-related, she added. 

“We do believe this has been exacerbated by the pandemic, because there were places closed like libraries and fast-food restaurants and places that people could go in the daytime," she said.

Twenty-five percent of those who died were over the age of 60. Thirty percent had chronic health conditions. These figures show that Maricopa County needs to focus on more shelter and housing for this population, she said. 

CASS had planned to honor the individuals who died this year while living in the streets during its annual Day of Remembrance event typically celebrated on the winter solstice, the long night of the year, but CASS decided to cancel this year's in-person event due to COVID, Glow said. 

CASS has had to adapt its operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, it was operating two shelters, one with 470 beds. Once the pandemic hit, CASS opened a program to house some homeless seniors at a hotel with support from the city of Phoenix and federal funds for the CARES Act, Glow said.  

“We call it Project Haven," she said. "It’s been a lifesaver for many medically vulnerable senior citizens who can stay in their own room and get the support they need in a safe environment to end their homelessness.” 

City officials are expressing interest to bring this program to their side of the valley, Glow said, and she fears more housing and shelter space may be needed soon if nothing is done to help people facing eviction once the moratorium expires at the end of the year. 

→  Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona 

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Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.