Amid Maricopa County Push To Combat Homelessness, Shelter For Seniors Faces Uncertain Future

By Lauren Gilger, Steve Goldstein
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 11:18am
Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 2:51pm

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homeless encampment
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
A homeless encampment built on the edge of 33rd Avenue south of Buckeye Road in Phoenix.

Eliminating homelessness in the Phoenix area, with a focus on veterans, has been a strongly-expressed aim of leaders here for a number of years.

Former Phoenix Mayor and now Congressman Greg Stanton had made it a top priority. But the challenge still exists, and Maricopa County has committed new money to fund major initiatives, including workforce development and expanding West Valley partnerships with Avondale and Surprise to provide additional options for homeless individuals and families.

To learn more, The Show spoke with Bruce Liggett. He is Maricopa County’s human services director.

Amid this push to fight homelessness, Phoenix’s Justa Center for homeless seniors faces an uncertain future after serving the community for more than a decade.

Nancy Hempy sits on the center’s board of directors and, earlier this month, she told the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts that the center is “ridiculously close to closing.”

Since the column ran, Executive Director Wendy Johnson said donations have poured in — enough to secure the center’s future for the next six months. But that doesn’t mean Justa Center is in the clear just yet and, without it, hundreds of people may not have a safe place to go.

A lot of these people haven't been homeless for most of their lives. Many people today are becoming homeless for the first time after age 50. The Show asked Wendy what it would mean to those folks if Justa Center closed.

This problem, tragically, isn’t unique to Arizona. Kevin Prindiville is the executive director of Justice in Aging, a national legal advocacy organization focused on senior poverty, and The Show also spoke with him more about this growing population, and what’s behind its rise.

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