Mayor Skip Rimsza

Coordinated Strategy to Prevent Homelessness

Description of the Program

The Continuum of Care system in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area (Maricopa Country) provides an array of housing and services which attempts to prevent homelessness, address a crisis situation if homelessness does occur, outreach to bring those already homeless into housing and services, transition homeless people into permanent housing, and provide support to maintain individuals and families in permanent housing to enable them to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Housing types include emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and permanent affordable housing. The principle organizations involved in developing the Continuum of Care system for Maricopa County include local, state, and federal governments, nonprofit agencies, coalitions, religious organizations, the private sector, and interested citizens, including those who are homeless or formerly homeless.

When and Why Created

In the Winter of 1982, homeless became a visible problem in Maricopa County when urban campsites were built in the downtown area of Phoenix. Nationwide, as well as in Maricopa County, homelessness became a symbol of the need to address poverty, inadequate support services, and the lack of affordable housing. Since 1983, service providers, housing providers, advocates, churches, the business community, and federal, state, county, and city governments have been working together to develop a responsive network of housing and support services for homeless adults, families and youth in Maricopa County. As an extension of this work, the current effort is based on a community-wide consensus for the need to provide housing and services in a Continuum of Care which responds to local conditions, addresses the many causes and effects of homelessness, and is flexible enough to meet the needs of different subpopulations of homeless people.

Measurements of Effectiveness

The Regional Plan for the continuing development of a Continuum of Care in Maricopa County include the following goals and indicators for their achievement:


  • Develop a range of housing options available across the Valley to include emergency, transitional, permanent, and permanent supportive housing.
  • Affordable permanent housing and housing with support services will be available to help homeless people move from crisis situations to long-term maintenance of permanent housing.
  • Permanent affordable housing will provide the key to preventing homelessness.

Measurement Indicators

  • Percent increase or decrease in housing by types: emergency, transitional, permanent affordable, and permanent supportive housing
  • Development of a strategy to replace McKinney SHP and S+C funding for housing the seriously mentally ill homeless population
  • Analysis of the extent to which Request For Proposal (RFP) processes in Maricopa County link housing and services
  • Development of a county-wide affordable housing financing strategy
  • Development of information regarding the impact of welfare reform on prevention services
  • Maintenance of an inventory and score card of Single Room Occupancy bed increases and decreases


  • Enhance the Continuum of Care services to better assist homeless people to resolve crises, develop a plan to return to self-reliance, or to assist those who are unable to become completely independent due to physical or mental disabilities.
  • Develop advanced technological electronic linkages as a means of reducing the amount of time and effort homeless agencies spend in coordinating their programs.

Measurement Indicators

  • The development of standardized service outcomes by the City of Phoenix, City of Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona Department of Economic Security, and Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Implementation of the county-wide centralized intake and client tracking system
  • Refinement and standardization of linkages between companies of the Continuum of Care
  • Increases in state legislative funding for behavioral health services and housing for the Seriously Mentally Ill
  • Increases in transportation availability enabling homeless people to access services


  • Establish a coordinated blend of resources and funding from all levels of government and the private sector to assist homeless people in returning to self-sufficiency.
  • Consolidation of proposal and grant processes in order to maximize the effectiveness of limited resources.
  • Enlist businesses to assist providers with venture and capital and technical assistance to develop entrepreneurial endeavors to generate funds for their programs and provide job opportunities for homeless people.

Measurement Indicators

  • The number of government agencies and private sector funders which coordinate Request for Proposal (FRP), contracting, monitoring, and reporting requirements
  • Increase in funding amounts and types used for the Continuum of Care
  • Increased availability of venture capital and technical assistance to homeless providers


  • Assigning a high priority in addressing the needs of homeless people with behavioral health problems.
  • Increase services and housing for homeless people with behavioral health problems.
  • Reduce neighborhood and business prejudice against programs for all homeless people.
  • Assist the State of Arizona in planning for the replacement and expiring McKinney Act permanent housing.

Measurement Indicators

  • Increases in housing and services to homeless persons with behavioral health problems.
  • Increase in State funding of permanent supportive housing for the seriously mentally ill homeless population.


  • Develop a full array of employment-related service options for homeless people.
  • Ensure community-based and shelter-based employment services are available to all homeless people.
  • Increase the number of jobs available to homeless people.

Measurement Indicators

  • The number of projects developed to provide jobs for homeless people
  • The number of homeless people served by city and county Job Training Partnership Act Programs
  • Inclusion of employment related screens into the County wide centralized intake and client tracking system
  • The number of housing programs linked to job training programs

Financing of Program

The Continuum of Care in Maricopa County includes an array of state, federal, local government, and private funding.

Linkage to City Government

The Continuum of Care is a coordinated effort led by the City of Phoenix, City of Mesa, Maricopa County, the state of Arizona and the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Major Lessons

The major lesson learned during the ongoing development of the Continuum of Care is that no one government or entity can resolve the issues of homelessness alone. All citizens must take responsibility and action because the causes are complex, the solutions must be coordinated, and the financing must be shared.

Contact Person: Terry Cook, Homeless Programs Coordinator City of Phoenix Human Services Department 200 W. Washington, 17th Floor Phoenix, Arizona 85003 Telephone: 602-256-4297 Fax: 602-534-2092

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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