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Arizona among the states with the largest increase in homelessness. Experts explain why

According to data compiled by HUD, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix metro area has increased 21% since 2020.

ARIZONA, USA — More people are experiencing homelessness in Phoenix and Arizona than two years ago, while some other major cities have seen a decrease. 

According to data compiled from point-in-time counts of people experiencing homelessness across the country by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix metro area has increased by 21% since 2020. 

Arizona is also among the states with the largest increase in homelessness by state and among the states with the most unsheltered people experiencing homelessness. 

Phoenix sees increase in homeless population

Phoenix is among cities like Sacramento, Calif., and Portland, Ore., that also saw increases. 

However, places like Boston, Mass., Philidelphia, Pa., and New York City saw decreases in the number of people experiencing homelessness. 

"It really is about the services that they're leading with, that I believe, it's leading to those decreased numbers," Lisa Glow, president and CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) said. 

Darenthia Grayson is among that increase in people experiencing homelessness over the past two years. 

Grayson came to CASS in April of 2021. 

"My house burned down, and I didn't have anywhere to go," Grayson said. 

RELATED: 'People are literally dying': Human Services Campus trying to help homeless, but resources are limited

She's now living in an apartment of her own after she says she lived in and out of the shelter for a year. 

"I ended up here, which is the best thing that could have happened to me," Grayson said. 

Now, her artwork hangs in the halls of the Human Services Campus, there for people to buy with funds going back to help the organizations that helped Grayson, as those organizations are consistently full. 

People experiencing homelessness and living on the streets are also up

In Phoenix, the number of people experiencing homelessness and living unsheltered has also gone up, according to the data. There's been a 30% increase in people in that group since 2020. 

But, there is also an increase of 9% of people who are homeless that are living in shelter spaces. Additional shelter beds added by CASS and other agencies have helped, Glow said, but more is needed. 

"It just can't happen fast enough," Glow said. 

Affordable housing is needed 

"It's an emergency," Glow said. 

The biggest challenge facing organizations like CASS is housing, Glow said. 

"People are becoming homeless because there's a lack of affordable housing, and rents are going up. And then once they become homeless, getting them back into housing that doesn't exist is a huge barrier," Glow said. 

Glow is hopeful that come 2024; Phoenix will be on the list of fewer people living on the streets or in shelters.

"To stem the tide of people becoming homeless, we have to have more immediate shelter and bridge programs like we're doing with our Haven. We have to have more long-term affordable housing because it's hard to get people back into housing when it doesn't exist. So all of those things together will start to turn the corner, and we're on that pathway," Glow said. 

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