Point-in-Time head count to address homelessness resumes in Maricopa County

Elizabeth DaCosta shares resources with Troy Burell as she conducts the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, Jan. 25. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

A woman experiencing homelessness uses her wheelchair at the SureStay Hotel in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday. Maricopa County used pandemic relief funds to rent 35 rooms for people experiencing homelessness who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

John O’Boyle told volunteers he just moved from Cleveland to Phoenix for the warmer weather. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Cristina Moreno sits under a bridge in downtown Phoenix to avoid the blustery chill on Tuesday. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Volunteer Melinda Anderson conducts the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count and provides Cristina Moreno with resources for people experiencing homelessness. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Troy Burel talks to Elizabeth DaCosta about his situation for the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count on Tuesday in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Volunteers conducting the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count look for people to interview for the annual survey and to offer help. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Elizabeth DaCosta, senior director of housing and community integration at Community Bridges, talks to a man experiencing homelessness for the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count on Tuesday. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Elizabeth DaCosta, right, gives her volunteer group, including Mark Brewer, directions for how to conduct the Point-in-Time Homeless Count on Tuesday in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Bundled beneath layers of clothing and equipped with digital surveys, a band of six volunteers from the nonprofit organization Community Bridges walked the streets of downtown early Tuesday to tally the number of people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County.

The Point-in-Time Homeless Count is conducted nationwide to gauge the extent of homelessness across the country. Each year, the Maricopa Association of Governments designates hundreds of volunteers, staff members and outreach workers to canvass various grids within the county and submit data to help secure funding and inform new solutions to homelessness.

Elizabeth DaCosta is the senior director of housing and community integration at Community Bridges, which uses housing, therapy, education and medications to create treatment plans for behavioral health concerns and addiction treatment. DaCosta, who led a group of five volunteers, said the statistics collected for Point-in-Time help paint the true picture of homelessness and the need for more shelter.

Cristina Moreno, who is experiencing homelessness, keeps her essentials nearby on Jan. 25 in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

“We get to use this information as a system to be able to show that there is this increase in unsheltered homelessness going on in our community,” DaCosta said.

Volunteers asked the people they surveyed a series of questions to divide the statistics into different demographics. Questions included whether an individual uses alcohol or drugs, has ever stayed in a shelter and whether they’ve served in the military.

“Also, we ask information around their history of homelessness that helps us identify if there is a significant amount of people experiencing chronic homelessness, like are our services working or are we seeing that people are staying homeless longer,” DaCosta said.

The Maricopa County count occurs annually at the end of January, but last year’s count was canceled because of COVID-19. The snapshot from the 2020 Point-in-Time Count showed that 7,419 people were experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, an overall 12% increase from the 2019 count. The number of sheltered and unsheltered individuals also went up by 7% and 18%, respectively. Final data for the 2022 count still is being analyzed.

As volunteers came across unsheltered people, they shared contact information and resources. For people who needed immediate help, Community Bridges volunteer Alyssa Russell said crisis care could be provided on location.

“I have been here and I know what it’s like for them,” Russell said. “I want to do what I can to get them the resources that they need.”

(Video by Raven Payne/Cronkite News)

Russell said she discovered the head count through her work with Community Bridges, and signed up this year for the first time.

“No one wants people to be homeless; it is the worst way to live,” Russell said. “Being homeless sucks – being stuck in the cold and stuff. This count helps us get the funding so that we can help these people get off the streets.”

Eryka Forquer Erica Fork-were (she/her)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Eryka Forquer expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in communications. Forquer, who has interned as a reporter with Picket Fence Media in Southern California, also has worked for Blaze Radio and WUTK. She is working for the Phoenix news bureau.

Raven Payne Rey-ven Peyn (she/her)
News Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Raven Payne expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Payne, who has written for the Phoenix Business Journal, is working for the Phoenix news bureau.

Monserrat Apud de la Fuente Mon-seh-rat Ah-pud deh lah Fu- en- teh
News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Monse Apud expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Apud, who has interned as a photojournalist at The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Magazine, also was an international radio correspondent for La Cadena Raza. She is working for the Phoenix news bureau and Cronkite Noticias.

Michelle Ailport mi-SHEL AYL-port (she/her/hers)
News Digital Producer, Phoenix

Michelle Ailport expects to graduate in May 2022 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Ailport, who graduated from ASU in May 2021 with a degree in journalism and mass communication, is working for the Phoenix news bureau.

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