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New Report Confirms More Families Among Arizona Homeless

January 20, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz. - One of the results of the recession has been a sharp rise in homelessness in Arizona. A new report shows a nearly 18-percent rise in Arizona's homeless population between 2008 and 2009, with families representing many of the newly homeless.

Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness director Joan Serviss says the state's homeless families are increasingly relying on what the report calls "doubled-up" living arrangements.

"Basically, people are living with other family members or friends. Another word is 'couch-surfing.' It's an unstable living situation."

The report shows Arizona unemployment jumping 55 percent from 2008 to 2009. Serviss says the lack of jobs is the biggest driver of the state's homelessness, followed closely by medical expenses.

Cutbacks in state programs for people with disabilities and serious mental illnesses are making the homeless situation worse, Serviss warns.

"You have to figure out whether you pay for prescriptions or pay for a roof over your head."

Since homelessness is a lagging indicator in a troubled economy, Serviss expects the number of homeless Arizonans to continue rising for the time being. The report shows a total 2009 Arizona homeless population of nearly 15,000. That number to updated next week in the annual survey of Arizona's homeless, Serviss says.

"This survey helps us figure out what needs are out there, what our capacity is for caring for individuals, what gaps might exist and potential funding to address those gaps."

This year's count will make a special effort to locate homeless military veterans, Serviss adds. On Super Bowl weekend, the Coalition will host its annual "Arizona Stand Down" event at the State Fairgrounds, hoping to match at-risk and homeless vets with available services and benefits.

The "State of Homelessness in America" report is available at

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ