Homeless shelter funds dwindling as summer heat looms

The line outside St. Vincent de Paul of people waiting for lunch service. Both centers are accessible to one another. (Photo by Amber Kahwaji/Cronkite News)

A Maricopa County grant is keeping overnight shelter services available to the homeless, but the grant is expected to run out around June 30 as summer temperature burn hotter.

County and Phoenix officials have no clear long-term funding solution for shelters used by hundreds every day.

“We’re currently looking at models in different municipalities. How do other regions take care of their homeless problem?” said Clint Hickman, who chairs the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority granted $170,000 to Valley of the Sun United Way, an organization that funds non-profit community organizations.

Valley of the Sun United Way is using the grant to fund St. Vincent de Paul and the Lodestar Day Resource Center, two facilities acting as temporary overnight shelters.

Both centers provide meals, as well as mats with blankets for those who choose to spend the night.

The grant is slated to fund the centers, located on the same campus, through June. City, county and community organizations are working to find money to keep shelters open to Phoenix area homeless once the grant money runs out.

“It’s not just a Maricopa County issue, it’s not just a city of Phoenix issue, it’s a community issue,” Steve Gallardo, a county supervisor, said.

Lodestar and St. Vincent started serving the homeless when an overflow shelter in downtown Phoenix closed in April.

Combined, the centers served 270 people each night last June, and 285 each night in July.

And in Arizona having no shelter during the summer can be dangerous, especially as temperatures climb into the triple digits.

One plan being talked about is finding permanent housing for those who have fallen on hard times.

“The solution to end homelessness in Maricopa County is permanent housing,” Gallardo said. “How do we get there? With the understanding at the same time as we start addressing these needs, we’re going to need temporary bedding.”

But for the homeless the time it is taking to find solutions is a luxury they can’t afford, especially when finding a place to sleep each night can be dangerous and difficult.

“If I didn’t have this place I would still be wandering the streets of Arizona, having no place to go. I would probably not be in the right state of mind right now,” said Jordin Hutchins, a 21-year-old who’s been using the shelter’s services for four weeks.

Homelessness in ArizonaInfographic