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Tucson cancels homelessness count for 2nd year as COVID rages

The city of Tucson’s annual count of people experiencing homelessness has been canceled as COVID-19 continues to spread. 

The city uses more than $10 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to organize the Unsheltered Point in Time Count annually. Volunteers sprawl out to count and speak with homeless communities across the Tucson area.

Jason Thorpe with city's Housing and Community Development Department says this is the second time in a row the event’s been canceled because of COVID-19. 

"In Pima County, we’re seeing the highest rates of COVID infection we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic, and about four times higher than they were last year when we canceled the count," he said. 

Thorpe says local aid groups that usually help with the effort have been hit hard by staffing shortages as cases continue to rise. 

He says in lieu of the physical count, the city will use existing data from emergency shelters and interviews with families and individuals experiencing homelessness. The city saw a 60% rise in homelessness between 2019 and 2020. Thorpe says the pandemic has likely exacerbated that number, especially as the city's housing market continues to skyrocket.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.