Homeless population increased during recession

January 30, 2013

The number of homeless people living in shelters and on the streets increased during the recession, according to service providers. Workers from those agencies and Valley cities hit the streets yesterday to get an accurate count of how many people in Maricopa County are homeless.

Homeless count Matt Sager surveys homeless people in a downtown Phoenix park. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton accompanied him. (Photo by Al Macias - KJZZ)

In 2011 about 15,000 people were living on the streets in the county according to the Maricopa Association of Governments. That’s the last time the homeless population was surveyed.

Cities need an accurate count of the homeless population to apply for federal funds aimed at homelessness and housing initiatives.

Matt Sager is with Southwest Behavioral Health. He is speaking to a woman named Anna in a downtown Phoenix park. She is homeless. She willingly responds to his survey. Not everyone does.

"Many people have said no to the survey but we can still count them. I have some blankets and sack lunches so I can try to entice them to do the survey," Sager said. "But some people don’t want to, they may be illegal or they have warrants, a whole variety of reasons, they just don’t want their name out there."

For the first time all the cities in Maricopa County are using the same survey form. MAG hopes that will provide a more accurate count.