Arizona Pandemic Response Could Mean 'Dire' Homelessness Surge, Report Says

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - 5:23pm
Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 1:04pm

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trash outside tents
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Trash outside tents near Ninth Avenue and Jackson Street on Feb. 5, 2020.

Homelessness in the state could jump nearly 30% as a result of the pandemic, according to new findings from the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women. 

The report describes Arizona’s homelessness situation as “dire.” It points out the state had high poverty even before the pandemic and says aid programs for struggling Arizonans have been “stingy and difficult to access.”

Keith Bentele, one of the report’s authors, said the state could face a 16-to-29% uptick in homelessness within months.

“It’s not just the size of the increase. It’s that it could be happening on a very, very short timeframe which would really overwhelm homeless services," Bentele said. 

Gov. Doug Ducey recently extended the state’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium through October. But Bentele said the extension will only help if that time is used to implement major policy changes to aid struggling Arizonans.

“I just think this needs to be prioritized enormously and much more needs to be invested," Bentele said. 

The report recommends the state expand its unemployment insurance program, which currently offers less aid than most other states' programs. Researchers also recommend Arizona invest more in rapid-rehousing and other homelessness programs that get individuals into their own homes. Under the state's current eviction moratorium some evictions are still allowed, so the report also recommends the state place stricter limits in evictions and foreclosures. 

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