by Kassandra Johnson, Guest Writer
Our Voices features guest bloggers in their own words sounding off on disability issues in Arizona.
Kassandra Johnson is working on a Masters of Social Work degree at Arizona State University this spring.
In the first nine months of 2020, 527 individuals experiencing homelessness passed away in the Phoenix metro area. Nearly 40 percent were 55 years or older. Unfortunately, with increased housing costs, low wages, and unrealistic dependence on Social Security benefits, seniors will continue to face high homelessness rates for the next few decades. Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) projects the homeless population of Arizonans who are 65 years and older will triple by the year 2030.
A recent report by that ADDPC and The Arc of Arizona highlights the need for emergency shelter housing for vulnerable adults facing abuse and neglect.
The Phoenix metro area is taking strides to combat these devastating statistics. Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) has partnered with the City of Phoenix to create Project Haven. This shelter project looks to renovate an old hotel in the West Valley to provide emergency shelter for individuals who are 55 and older or those who are medically vulnerable.
Project Haven hopes to provide onsite essential services to individuals and support them in finding long-term housing solutions through case management services. This project has gained some funding through the CARES Act and the community. The creators are hopeful that Senate Bill 1514 will provide additional support.
S. B. 1514, introduced by Senator David Livingston, will appropriate a sum of $5 million from Arizona's general fund to the Department of Economic Security for emergency shelters and serve individuals at least 55 years old. S.B 1514 was passed through the Arizona Senate on February 18, 2021 and is currently in the Arizona House of Representatives. If S. B. 1514 passes, awarding Project Haven with $5 million, it will not only serve older individuals but will also provide a safe place for Arizonans with developmental disabilities.
It is important that as homelessness continues to grow in this state that as a community, we are working to ensure there are the proper supports in place. Project Haven would allow for a more vulnerable population to have a safe place to lay their head and get access to community resources.