Phoenix is one of five major US cities set to receive federal help to get unsheltered residents into permanent housing under a new plan launched Thursday as part of the Biden administration’s larger goal to reduce homelessness 25% by 2025.
The goal is for the federal government to provide “knowledge, resources and elbow grease” to population centers where nearly half the nation’s unhoused residents live, said Susan Rice, President Joe Biden’s domestic policy advisor.
The administration will offer “tailored support” for two years to improve efforts toward housing unsheltered people in the participating communities, including embedding a federal official in each area, officials said.
In addition, teams will be deployed to help the communities obtain federal funding, establish a network of resources and identify areas where regulations can be loosened, and the process for securing housing can be sped up.
Philanthropic groups and private businesses will be invited to help identify opportunities for support and collaboration, according to the administration.
More than 580,000 Americans were homeless in 2022, with 4 out of 10 of them unsheltered and sleeping on sidewalks and in tents and cars, Rice said. In Phoenix, 3,333 people are living without shelter at any given time.
“We know we cannot meaningfully address our nation’s homelessness problem without a distinct focus on unsheltered homelessness,” Rice said during a livestreamed announcement with the cities’ mayors and other officials.
Agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Social Security Agency, Department of Labor, Federal Emergency Management Agency, will be involved under Thursday’s announcement to help coordinate housing opportunities.
Funding specifics were not offered, but the White House said the program will build on the $2.5 billion already allocated to prevent homelessness under the administration’s American Rescue Plan and $486 million in the Department of Housing and Urban Development funding released to local municipalities earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the city of Phoenix is under increasing pressure to do something about a massive downtown encampment known as The Zone, where as many as 1,000 unhoused people have congregated near social services.
Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, a former social worker, successfully pushed for $150 million to be included in Arizona’s Housing Trust Fund in the state’s budget to shore up rent and utility assistance programs, eviction prevention, and build new shelters and affordable housing.