Arizona Saw Largest Increase in Homeless Youths in 2022, State Senate Republican Caucus Considers Addressing the Issue

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent Annual Homeless Assessment Report showed that Arizona had the largest increase in unaccompanied homeless youths in 2022, becoming the state with the fourth-highest percentage of minors living outside a home.

In response, Kim Quintero, the spokeswoman for the State Senate Republican Caucus, told The Arizona Sun Times that the caucus is considering legislation that would recognize unaccompanied homeless youths under 18 “need legal rights to access housing, shelters, and other basic services.”

“We currently have similar legislation on the books allowing any emancipated minor, any minor who has contracted a lawful marriage or any homeless minor to provide consent to the furnishing of hospital, medical and surgical care. We are looking at taking similar steps to provide critical protections, such as empowering minors experiencing homelessness to enter into contracts and to consent to shelter services,” Quintero said via email.

The Senate Republican Caucus had already stated it would focus on homelessness in its 2023 Majority Plan. According to the plan, one of their goals is to increase housing availability in the state while also working with local intervention programs to provide more mental health and medical services.

“We are currently looking at several approaches to increase housing options and affordability in our state, particularly with an eye toward youth and families,” Quintero said via email.

The Sun Times also contacted the State House for a comment on addressing the homeless youth but did not hear back.

According to the HUD report, Arizona’s estimated population of homeless youths by the end of 2022 was 917, a 44.9 percent increase between 2020 and 2022. While this is not the highest total in the nation, that title belongs to California at 9,590; many states with higher numbers than Arizona saw a homeless youth population decrease. Florida, Oregon, New York, and even California all saw a decline while Arizona’s population grew.

Additionally, Tucson ranked among the cities with the highest percentage of homeless youth unsheltered by a homeless service.

However, the overall population of homeless youths in the nation decreased by 12 percent. That being said, the overall homeless population increased by 0.3 percent. In total, 582,462 people are estimated to suffer from homelessness nationwide.

As for the total homeless population in the state, Arizona ranked highly, with estimated homelessness at 13,553. Between 2020 and 22, the homeless population grew by 2,574 in Arizona, the fifth largest growth in the nation. Although, as with the youth population, Arizona’s total homeless count is far overshadowed by several other states.

As reported by KTAR News, the increase in Arizona homelessness did not surprise some local experts. Kelli Williams, Director of Human Services for the Maricopa Association of Governments, said the state’s population growth has made it difficult for the housing supply to keep up.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) has also gotten involved in the homeless crisis. Her second executive order established the Governor’s Interagency and Community Council on Homelessness and Housing, which is directed to create a plan to prevent and end homelessness. Hobbs will choose members of this council.

Moreover, the homeless crisis in Arizona also presents a problem for residents and business owners. As reported by The Sun Times, a group of residents filed a lawsuit against the City of Phoenix over the sizeable homeless encampment in the middle of downtown known as “the Zone.” The lawsuit accuses the city of purposefully maintaining the zone, which has harmed businesses operating in the area.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Homeless Youth” by MART PRODUCTION.




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