PHOENIX - As Americans across the nation put up decorations for the upcoming holiday season, residents of west Phoenix will put up “No Trespassing'' signs in an effort to limit homeless activity in their alleys.
Residents with the Alhambra Neighborhood Association are concerned about trash and drug paraphernalia being left behind by homeless people. The growth of the Phoenix population has increased the number of homeless people, many of those being unsheltered.
In January, a point-in-time count was conducted showing the number of people who are homeless during a given point in time.
According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, the count shows 9,026 people are homeless, with 56% being unsheltered. This is an increase compared to 2020, which shows 7,419 were homeless and 51% being unsheltered.
The count also shows 1,022 struggle with mental health and 1,104 with substance abuse.
In 2017, the city created Community Action Response Engagement Services (C.A.R.E.S), a process to help the homelessness issue for those experiencing it and being impacted by it.
It connects the community with services such as encampment cleanups, shopping cart pickups, and access to resources such as shelters.
Neighborhoods with high rates of homelessness, such as west Phoenix, could use this process to their advantage.
“We’re always trying to engage people, trying to encourage people to go into shelter,” says Scott Hall, special projects administrator with C.A.R.E.S. “For unsheltered populations the opioid epidemic continues to be on the rise and harshly affects our folks that are experiencing homelessness. The drugs out there now are cheaper than ever, more available than ever, more addictive than ever,” says Hall.
The process is one solution to help those experiencing the effects of this growing issue. Local residents are expressing their concerns about this.
Shirley Dieckman, leader of the Alhambra Neighborhood Association in west Phoenix, shared her experience with the Gated Alley Pilot Program.
“You have to engage if you want things to change,” Dieckman says. “The gated alley program was a pilot first and I got one of the pilots. It’s extremely complicated.”
According to the city of Phoenix, in 2017 the city council approved an initial one-year pilot program with the goal to help reduce criminal activity and illegal dumping. In 2020, “an additional $98,100 in Block Watch Funds to fund the installation of 20 gates and secure 10 alleys” was approved.
Neighborhood specialist with the city of Phoenix, Mary Ramirez, spoke to members of the Alhambra Neighborhood Association about C.A.R.E.S and how to stay safe.
“If you have an authority to arrest it doesn’t have to be a business owner calling to report something or something suspicious,” Ramirez said.
The authority to arrest allows people to get arrested for trespassing wherever a “No Trespassing” sign is posted on a property.
Despite efforts from the community to stop illegal dumping in their back alleys, the city’s homeless population continues to grow.
The Alhambra Neighborhood Association hopes to make a change in their community to pave the way for other neighborhoods affected by similar issues.
For more information regarding the C.A.R.E.S process or resources, visit the phoenix.gov/phxcares website.