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Phoenix plans large new homeless shelter to serve West Valley

Phoenix  plans to construct a new homeless shelter in the southwest part of the city as it works to expand shelter capacity citywide amid a growing homelessness crisis. 

The proposed 280-bed shelter would be on city-owned property on 71st Avenue, south of Interstate 10.

Homelessness in the Valley has increased about 50% in just five years. And while many of the city’s human services are closer to the center of town, homelessness impacts the whole region, said Rachel Milne, director of Phoenix's Office of Homeless Solutions. 

"There is a huge need in this area. Along the I-10 corridor there are several encampments and people experiencing homelessness, and this site will have priority for people experiencing homelessness within a mile and a half of the site itself," Milne told KJZZ News. 

As a security precaution, the campus will not offer walk-up services; rather, people will need referrals to enter the site, Milne said. 

Plans for the site include congregate and non-congregate indoor shelter spaces, RV parking, personal storage spaces and areas for pets. An on-site navigation center will also offer case management, health services and job services. 

"A very important component for this shelter is the focus on employment," Milne said. "We're partnering with St. Vincent de Paul for what we call an immediate employment opportunity. Any resident of the site will have the ability to work with St. Vincent de Paul and their Neighborhood Brigade program, which could be jobs at the shelter site itself or out in the community." 

A $7 million grant from the state housing department would pay for construction of the site.

Milne’s office is still seeking permit approval from the city to move forward with the project. The city's Board of Adjustment will consider the permit in early April. If approved, Milne said construction would begin right away. 

"We’ve got our summer heat looming, so that is definitely a factor," Milne said. "Our intention was definitely to get it open prior to the summer, but at this point it’s looking like mid-summer is probably more realistic." 

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.