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Arizona homeless hit hard as new COVID-19 surge strengthens

“Me being there is like having a loaded gun so I didn’t want to risk none of that,” said Chavez.

PHOENIX — In Phoenix, Arizona, the nonprofit Circle the City has been partnering with Maricopa County to serve homeless people testing positive for COVID-19 or suspected cases. 

The county is renting the Phoenix Inn after the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved funding for county programs on May 6.

According to the United States Interagency Council of Homelessness 2019 point in time count, the Grand Canyon State has more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day. 

As the new coronavirus surge tightens its grip on the state, CTC officials are seeing a surge in new patients with no home and nowhere to go.

“Over the last two weeks, we've had almost 50 on a daily basis,” said Circle the City Medical Director Dr. Nasser Hajaig. 

For months, Hajaig and his medical staff have worked non stop caring for homeless patients like Francisco Chavez. 

'I came here to keep my family safe'

Chavez was living on the streets because he didn’t want to spread the virus to his mother and siblings, who are both diabetic and asthmatic and at higher risk for COVID-19.

“Me being there is like having a loaded gun, so I didn’t want to risk none of that,” said Chavez.   

According to the newly released Point in Time report, Maricopa County's 2020 unsheltered homeless population is 18% higher than it was in 2019, bringing the total number on the streets to nearly 3,800.

“When you see patients who are not doing well, oxygen levels going down. Having to transport them to the hospital. Pray that they do well. I feel those emotions swelling up inside me,” said Haijaig.   

Patients like Chavez are hoping to get better and back on their feet.

“This is a pause to rest and get more energy to keep going,” said Chavez. 

Circle the City says if someone you know is experiencing homeless and needs a COVID-19 test or medical care, they can contact the Parson's Family Medical Center at 602-776-7676 located at 3522 N. 3rd Ave in Phoenix. The Medical Center can give more information about the Phoenix Inn. 

The hotel is for adult patients only, but Parsons offers adult and pediatric care. 

RELATED: Maricopa County has more homeless people on the streets than in shelters for first time, report shows