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Maricopa Association of Governments to resume annual homelessness survey

The Maricopa Association of Governments is preparing for its annual survey to estimate how many people are experiencing homelessness in the region. The Point In Time Homelessness Street Count was canceled last year due to pandemic concerns. 

That missing year of information makes this year’s count even more critical, said Mesa mayor John Giles, chair of the MAG Regional Council.

“The year previous, we had seen some fairly troubling increases," Giles said.  "So we know that homelessness continues to increase in Maricopa County, but we lack a year’s worth of data.”

Data from the Point in Time Homelessness Street Count shows the unsheltered homeless population in Maricopa County nearly tripled from 2015 to 2020. Housing prices in the Valley have continued to skyrocket in the two years since MAG conducted its last count. And after pandemic-era eviction protections expired last summer, some Phoenix-area shelters have  reported soaring demand for services.   

“I won’t be surprised to see if homelessness continues to be on the increase in Arizona and in Maricopa County in particular," Giles said. 

Giles said federal COVID-19 relief funds have helped create a number of new programs across the county to address homelessness. He said updated numbers will help county leaders make better informed decisions about where to direct resources.

"The Point in Time survey will really give us the good data to make good decisions," Giles said. "To know who it is that we're trying to help, where they are, and the types of challenges they're facing." 

The count will take place Jan. 25. The Maricopa Association of Governments is still seeking volunteers to help. Giles said volunteers will wear masks and follow other COVID-19 safety precautions. 

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.