How Phoenix plans to protect unsheltered people during summer heat

By Christina Estes
Published: Tuesday, April 11, 2023 - 5:30pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 12, 2023 - 7:58am

homelessness and heat
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
An 69-year-old unsheltered Phoenix man gathers his belongings in summer 2022.

Phoenix is looking for more partners to help protect the city’s most vulnerable this summer.

In addition to daytime respite centers where people can get out of the heat, Phoenix is looking for partners to offer cooling centers where people can take naps. 

David Hondula, director of the city’s office of heat response and mitigation, said the unsheltered made up almost 40% of heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County in 2021.

“To put that into context, the risk of heat-associated death among people experiencing homelessness is approximately. 3-400 times – not percent – times higher than the rest of the population,” he said.

Hondula said and about 50% of deaths involved drug use.

Seven months after the City Council approved nearly a million dollars in federal funds for churches to provide overnight shelters, Lutheran Social Services expects to have 12 beds available, starting May 1. People can have dinner, spend the night, take showers and access services.  

“Lutheran Social Services has identified multiple congregations to house this program and are finalizing their pickup and drop off location,” said Rachel Milner, director of the city’s office of homeless solutions. “Lutheran Social Services is looking for additional congregations to help meet the need and congregations interested in being involved in the IHELP program can reach out to Lutheran Social Services directly.”

Phoenix is also looking to lease a building downtown to provide air conditioning, restrooms and services for people experiencing homelessness this summer. The city is also working with the Human Services Campus to provide a large tent with shade and make chilled water available at various locations. About 800 people live in tents around the campus near 9th Avenue and Jackson.

 According to a council report, the Phoenix Fire Department received 1,670 calls for heat emergencies in 2022 and more than 400 heat-associated deaths were reported in Maricopa County.

The city’s office of homeless solutions provided the following list of available emergency shelters around the Human Services Campus this summer. The list is for single adults and does not include shelters earmarked for specific populations like veterans and people fleeing domestic violence.

  • Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS)- Single Adult Shelter — 600 shelter beds.
  • HSC — Respiro Sprung Structure — 100 shelter beds. 
  • HSC Weather Relief Shelters — 275 mats on floor.
  • Washington Relief Shelter — 200 new shelter beds. 
  • Community Bridges Inc. (CBI) — Rio Fresco Healing Center — 117 hotel rooms. 
  • Maricopa County Bridge Housing Hotels — 283 hotel rooms. 

The following list are planned units in 2023 expected to add 462 beds.

  • Lutheran Social Services- I-HELP — 12 new shelter beds. 
  • Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) — The Haven — 170 new shelter units.
  • Sprung Structure and Non-Congregate Shelter Demonstration — 200 beds, 80 non-congregate beds.
Business Health + Medicine Housing