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Report gives clearer picture of Arizona's homeless population

A new report released by the Arizona Commission on Homelessness and Housing (ACHH) -- created by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010 -- and Arizona State University's Morrison Institute of Public Policy gives a clearer picture of the homeless population in the state, including what services they use and how they ended up without a home, or at the brink of losing their home.

The report is based off a statewide survey conducted in 2012 in the Phoenix and Tucson areas as well as the rest of the state. The survey went straight to the source: The homeless individuals themselves, more than 1,300 in total.

Using the survey's results, the report arrives at a specific appearance for the average homeless Arizona:

A single, childless White male in his mid-40s; he has been homeless for several months and has experienced two bouts of homelessness in the past three years. He probably spent last night in an emergency shelter; he most likely became homeless after losing a job or following conflict or violence in his family.

It says this image does not differ significantly from what the Department of Economic Security finds in its annual homelessness reports.

Seventy-five percent of respondents cited economic issues as the reason for their homelessness, followed by familial (45 percent) and health (37 percent) issues.

Sixteen percent of respondents in Maricopa County cited alcohol use as a reason for their homelessness, while 26 percent of those not in Maricopa or Pima counties said alcohol use contributed to their being homeless.

Family violence was also listed as a factor for homelessness. Thirty percent of females with one or more children cited family violence as a reason for their homelessness, as compared to 18 percent who were single with no children and 16 percent who said they had a partner but not children. Very few males, however, cited family violence as a reason for their being homeless.

Outside of Maricopa and Pima counties, 21 percent of respondents said mental illness contributed to their homelessness, while 16 percent in Maricopa said the same.

Pima County had the highest use of employment services (34 percent) by the homeless, while Maricopa County had 27 percent of those surveyed say they have used such services.

Although the percentage of veterans among the homeless population dropped in the state from 2011 to 2012, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of veterans surveyed cited a disability as a cause of their homelessness, and 16 percent said alcohol use contributed to their situation.

When broken down by ethnicity, 36 percent of Native Americans, 15 percent of African Americans, 15 percent of Hispanics and 14 percent of whites said alcohol use was one of the reasons for their homelessness.

"The aim of this report is to join with other, ongoing efforts to develop effective policies concerning such issues as job training, treatment for the mentally ill and Arizona's critical need for affordable housing," said Bill Hart, senior policy analyst of the Morrison Institute. "Hopefully, it will help politicians and policymakers talk more openly and productively about a pervasive social problem that is both glaringly obvious and largely invisible."

Click here to read the full report.

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