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Tempe leaders discuss response to homeless population

By Pratham Dalal
Published: Monday, November 7, 2022 - 5:05am

More than 500 people were living unsheltered in Tempe as of August, and local business owners disagree about what steps the city is taking to solve the problem. Tempe has taken many steps to help rehabilitate homeless people and assist them.

Tempe’s Care and Hope line, which people can call if they know a person experiencing homelessness, has received 450 calls since it went live in August. Also that month, the city launched an encampment reporting system and reports closing nearly 900 encampments.

Scott Neal builds self-sustaining shelters around the valley. He is critical of the city’s approach.

“Some of the things, its proven is a band aid, you know that band aid is peeling off," he said. 

He says cities should prioritize helping homeless people find housing first. “Once you get the person off the street, and you get them in a safe environment, a safe place for them to stay, then you can come in with more programs and say hey let's get you cleaned up, let's get you here, let's get you the things you need to do," he said. 

The city and Mayor Corey Woods are a part of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership program in their mission to help homeless people.

On Friday, city leadership met with local business leaders to answer their questions about Tempe’s new response.

Kris Scharlau, Tempe’s Human Services manager, says, “That's what we are trying to be is innovative in our response to that, not just trying to apply the same solutions we used 20 years ago. In 2017, the city launched their Tempe Works Enhancement Program, which helps connect homeless people to work."

To date, the city has employed 10 people through the city but they are looking to add more to this initiative. The city also is setting aside grant money through the Tempe Hometown for All Program. This program will save up to 50% of all proceeds from building fees and donated to nonprofits that build shelters on the land. To date, the fund has raised $18.6 million.

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