With temperatures already soaring well into the 90s, plans have been activated to transition people experiencing homelessness from the temporary Safe Outdoor Space, located at 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street, to safe, cooled indoor space, protecting them from extreme summer temperatures.
Originally opened in April 2020 as a temporary solution to provide physically distanced shelters for people experiencing homelessness, the Safe Outdoor Space was a collaboration between the Maricopa County Department of Human Services and the Human Services Campus. The temporary living area provided security, hand washing stations, cold drinking water and lavatories that were available to all people in the area.
“We recognize the risk that summer heat poses for people experiencing homelessness,” said Bruce Liggett, Director of Maricopa County Human Services Department. “Our primary goal is to offer every individual the opportunity to transition to an indoor living space and connection to resources to ensure they have access to healthcare, wellness and nutrition services.”
County staff started communicating with people living on the lots and around the Human Services Campus about the change in late March. Staff has also coordinated with local sheltering services to secure indoor placements for people. Some of the previously secured motel space used to shelter people diagnosed and suspected to have COVID-19 will be converted to transitional housing. More leased rooms will be added to accommodate additional people during the summer months. In addition to offering a cooled, indoor space to shelter, the new locations offer meals and case management services to assist with a more permanent living situation.
Throughout the pandemic, the Maricopa County Human Services Department has been working with federal, state, municipal, and non-profit partners, along with the Maricopa County Association of Governments, to reduce risk among the homeless population.
- In 2020, the County established a medical triage phone line and provided alternate care sites for people who were COVID-19 positive who do not require hospitalization.
- On April 7, 2021, the Arizona Department of Economic Security committed $1 million in funding to expand housing resources for people experiencing homelessness. This partnership will ensure that fewer people are unsheltered in anticipation of the hot summer months and to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- On April 12, 2021, the Maricopa County Human Services Department teamed up with the Human Services Campus, Inc. (HSC) and Circle the City in a joint effort to battle COVID-19 to offer a week-long event aimed at vaccinating individuals experiencing homelessness. The event removed many of the barriers faced by the homeless population to being vaccinated such as the need for a computer, telephone service and a vehicle.
The Safe Outdoor Space was established by the Maricopa County Human Services Department in collaboration with the Human Services Campus in April 2020 as temporary, physically distanced shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Three lots owned by Maricopa County provided enough space to establish 200 tent spaces.