Maricopa County Volunteers Count Homeless to Obtain Federal Funds

In an effort to secure federal funding, hundreds of volunteers searched across the Valley Tuesday morning as part of an annual effort to count homeless people.

Coordinated by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), more than 300 volunteers went out from 6 to 9 a.m. to count and interview homeless individuals in specific geographic areas throughout Maricopa County. They used surveys to gain insight into each person's situation. For those who refused the survey or were asleep, volunteers used separate observation sheets. Volunteers included city, county, and state agencies, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses, and private residents.

Although this year's count won't be finalized for a few months, homelessness in Arizona seems to be on the decline. After MAG hit a high of 2,918 homeless men, women, and children in its 2009 count, homeless numbers have decreased steadily, continuing though last year's count of 1,581. Based on last year's numbers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided $25 million to Maricopa County in 2013. MAG Human Services Program Manager Brande Mead says the funding is essential to fight homelessness in the valley.

"The money we receive (from HUD) provides housing in support of services for the homeless men, women and children throughout the region," Mead said.

HUD has given $269 million to the region since 1999.

This year's homeless count comes a few months after Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's push to house house every homeless veteran by Christmas.