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Survey Ranks AZ Near Bottom for Pandemic Crisis Assistance

The effects of the COVID-19 crisis are threatening thousands of Arizonans who either are homeless or have lost a job and could lose their housing. (Tab61/Adobe Stock)
The effects of the COVID-19 crisis are threatening thousands of Arizonans who either are homeless or have lost a job and could lose their housing. (Tab61/Adobe Stock)
April 30, 2020

PHOENIX -- The COVID-19 pandemic is a frightening event for most Arizonans, but some say it's especially dangerous for people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home.

About 8,000 Arizonans are without permanent shelter -- and thousands more have lost jobs and could join their ranks.

A survey by the financial website WalletHub ranks Arizona 49th among states for its lack of support systems for at-risk populations during the pandemic.

Joan Serviss, executive director of the Arizona Housing Coalition, points out that the state had a homeless problem long before the COVID-19 crisis.

"We were in an affordable housing crisis before this health crisis, and it's only going to be exacerbated by this pandemic," she states. "So, we really need to make sure that we have affordable housing stock created, so that we can come out of this."

State officials say they've begun a variety of programs, including emergency rental assistance and extra funding to move homeless people out of open camps and assist shelters in providing extra space for clients, to help them avoid the contagious disease.

However, Serviss says Arizona still falls short of taking care of those who need the most help.

"There are some connections and some resources to make use of, to make sure that tenants and landlords are fully aware of their process and their responsibilities," she states. "Our biggest concern is what happens in 120 days, when the eviction moratorium comes to that, and many renters are struggling to catch up?"

According to the WalletHub survey, Arizona ranks among the bottom five states for coronavirus relief and medical services, food and housing assistance and unemployment support.

Serviss says there are some resources for people in financial danger of losing their housing, but they can be bureaucratic and hard to find.

"The Arizona Department of Housing has the Eviction Prevention Rental Assistance Program," she states. "There's an application process and you'll have to submit some online documentation. That program can support folks who are falling behind in their rent."

Serviss suggests people facing a housing crisis look at the Arizona Housing Coalition's website, or ask about coronavirus assistance on the Arizona 211 help line.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ