The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is focusing its sights on the West Valley, and it approved $4.2 million in funding to help combat post-pandemic homelessness.

Of that amount, $1.7 million was recently given to the city of Avondale to create six “bridge” housing units, designed to help struggling families and residents get back on their feet during a difficult time. 

“The ultimate goal is the partnership with the city of Avondale will create a solution that provides additional shelter in our community or specifically in Avondale that works for that population for that city,” Maricopa County Human Services Department Director Jacqueline Edwards said.

“Now if a family is experiencing homelessness, and their support system is already in Avondale, they don’t have to go elsewhere across Maricopa County. They’ll have an opportunity to remain in the community that they love.”

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness of all kinds took a nationwide spike, and to boot, Arizona ranked toward the top of the country with the most eviction filings coupled with an 8% unemployment rate, according to studies. 

“Homelessness is a regional issue,”Edwards said. “It could impact your neighbor, your cousin, your co-worker, it can happen to any of us. But by partnerships, in government, with nonprofits, we all have to work together to be able to support individuals transitioning out of homelessness, and doing it within a local community is going to be what is most successful for these families.”

The Maricopa Board of Directors has taken those statistics to heart and have acted on it in a big way. 

The bridge housing units are designed for families that have been knocked out of their normal lives, housing up to six people per unit, and offering them a way back, a second chance that could get them back on track. It differs from a traditional homeless shelter that may have “100 beds in an open room,” but rather the next step up.

“It’s noncongregate,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be an individual household for a family that has their own shelter and their own housing unit. That helps them. It’s just one more step to be able to transition from homelessness into permanent housing and home situations.”

The funds for the bridge housing comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, an initiative started by the federal government to give state, county and municipal jurisdictions funds that could be spent on a variety of things. The funds came just after the COVID-19 pandemic and have been instrumental in rebuilding life after the pandemic. 

“The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors have allocated $46 million just on infrastructure in shelter for those experiencing homelessness, and an additional 100 and 30 million in affordable housing solutions,” Edwards said. “So what we’ve done is take the $46 million and work with nonprofits, and where we’re really excited about our partnerships with cities and towns who are investing funds or time and resources to create shelter solutions in their community like this one in the city of Avondale.”

The focus on the West Valley is also key to the whole movement. The city of Surprise was given $2.58 million to make seven bridge housing units. 

This initiative to help get homelessness back under control has taken a big step with the funds allocated to Avondale. Although there is no timetable on when the units will be erected, the message is strong that there is a way back even in tough times. 

“I am so grateful to have investment from the Board of Supervisors so that we can make a significant impact in partnership, not just with our local communities but really in partnership with the people of Maricopa County,” Edwards said. “So those who have barriers to be successful, barriers regarding their own well-being and the investments that we have made here in Avondale, there in the West Valley in the city of Surprise, across the West Valley and across all of Maricopa County, not only are we able to impact individuals and families and support their social and economic mobility, but we’re able to create a community in partnership that will thrive.”