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Homelessness in Maricopa County is up 7%; unsheltered population drops

The results of the  2023 Maricopa County point-in-time homeless count are out. The Maricopa Association of Governments counted more than 9,600 Arizonans without permanent homes and found that homelessness increased by 7% over the past year in the county. That’s more than a 70% increase since 2017.

But for the first time in recent years, the number of those unsheltered went down. People living in emergency shelters or transitional housing made up the majority of growth in the homeless population this year, while the number of people on the streets fell slightly.

Katie Gentry, MAG regional homelessness program manager, said rent increases and a shortage of affordable housing in the Phoenix area are driving the trend.

“More individuals are living paycheck to paycheck and falling into homelessness because they can’t afford that increase in rent,” Gentry said. “When that rent increase hits you, the biggest challenge is finding another place to live that’s affordable, and more and more we’re finding that we can’t find affordable places for folks to go.”

But Gentry said as homelessness has increased, so has the county’s safety net. Federal pandemic relief dollars have helped boost the number of shelter beds in the region. And regional investments in homelessness solutions appear to be having some impact.

“We were able to increase shelter by 18% really in response to local and tribal governments along with our nonprofit partners,” she said.

Three weeks ago, Gentry said the county received just over $36 million in local funding to address homelessness.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that Katie Gentry works for the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.