Rosa Inchausti calls Tempe’s approach to homelessness “social innovation.”
Inchausti is the city’s chief deputy city manager who was appointed in mid-June to drive new strategies to deal with homelessness in the community of more than 180,000 residents.
On Aug. 4, Tempe started its first of several new strategies to enhance the city’s response to homelessness, city officials said.
The approach deals with safety and public health, connects people with housing options and services faster, gives residents new tools to help and addresses encampments more quickly, according to a news release from the city.
“This is social innovation. Involving our community nonprofits, residents, businesses and partnering with Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative are key strategies for us,” Inchausti said.
“With the expertise of our staff and partners, we are committed to impact homelessness on a local level and be a model for our nation.”
In the past two years, Tempe has invested in services and housing, the release stated. Now, the city is sharing the new tools it has developed with the community and urges residents to use them “to help those experiencing homelessness and to track Tempe’s progress.”
The tools include:
One number to call
Residents can now call The CARE & HOPE Line at 480-350-8004, to let the city know 24/7 about someone who needs help.
For general concerns that do not involve a person in crisis, residents can email HOPE@tempe.gov. Callers to Tempe 311 after hours will be directed to 480-350-8004 to share concerns.
Encampment reporting tool
City staff members have been using an online form to create data snapshots of encampments using information such as number of people, location, pets present and possible hazards. Now, the reporting form can be used by community members when they see encampments, helping address safety and public health concerns faster.
The form is available on the Tempe 311 app or by visiting tempe.gov/311. Residents can also call 311 during business hours at 480-350-4311 if they need help completing the form with a customer relations specialist.
After an encampment is reported, the HOPE team visits the people at the encampment, offering resources and assessing needs, according to the city. The operations team prioritizes addressing encampments based on hazards to safety and public health, location and size.
Tempe officials said they are enhancing how to address encampments citywide at parks, vacant lots and elsewhere, prioritizing safety and public health by connecting people who are unsheltered to housing options and services.
Alongside nonprofit partners, the city is activating a public health-focused response to assisting homeless people living in the Salt River area near Tempe Town Lake.
“Remaining in these no-trespass areas is not an option due to safety and public health reasons, including flooding, fires and other hazards,” the city release stated.
“People will not be able to return to this area, so the operation will provide resources including housing options.”
Through the month of August, following outreach in July, Tempe and its partners will operate a temporary “resource village” area near the river bottom for unsheltered people who are leaving the area.
“A variety of assistance will be offered so that people can live safely elsewhere. We are providing pet services and a storage option for personal belongings if needed. Since our outreach began in July, people have been accepting our help and are already relocating to safer housing options,” city officials said.
Between September and December, an “environmentally sensitive effort” to prune vegetation and remove debris will occur in order to return the river bottom to a riparian area.
Homeless solutions dashboard
Residents can view a new homeless solutions dashboard showing the city’s work.
The dashboard shows up-to-date information about reported encampments, progress in addressing encampments and data about city “engagement with people.” Visit: homeless-solutions.tempe.gov.
“Tempe is a leader among cities in establishing a comprehensive response to homelessness. The call now is to leverage innovation to be even more effective,” said Mayor Corey Woods.
“Today, cities across the country are seeing more homelessness. Tempe is leading again by adding new tools and data critical to the strategies that promote the continued health, safety and quality of life of our entire community.”
“Homelessness is an incredibly complex issue. We are continually evaluating results and pivoting strategies to meet needs,” Woods said.