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Shipping container homeless shelter plan approved by Phoenix City Council

The shelter units are expected to be operational in the 2023 summer.

PHOENIX — Refurbished shipping containers will be turned into shelter units in the City of Phoenix after the Council approved a plan on Wednesday.

The $3 million contract with Steel & Spark LLC will create private units on a city-owned lot near 22nd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road that will house 80 individuals or family units in ‘X’ shape pods of four 40-foot-tall containers.

The ‘XWing’ units will be part of a larger shelter site that will house less than 300 people at a given time.

The project is part of the city’s effort to find creative ways to rapidly address homelessness, said Rachel Milne, director of the office of homeless solutions for the city.

“This is going to be a permanent structure within the City of Phoenix,” Milne said. “Within the shipping containers, each individual will have their own space, with a bed, a desk, and some shelving and a door that will close for them to have their own specific space.”

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The currently empty lot will include tent-like structures for congregate shelter, communal spaces, bathrooms and showers, shaded outdoor areas, amenities for pets, storage, laundry, and other amenities.

“The whole site will be what we are calling a closed campus,” Milne said. “So, it will not have walk-up services. It’s going to be on a referral basis.”

The goal of the project is to provide services and help transition people to permanent housing, Milne added. There will not be a stay-limit restriction, allowing people to take as much time as they need to get back on their feet.

“For me, it’s a step in the right direction,” said Amy Schwabendler, executive director of the Human Services Center. “A lot of people have been asking the city to do more to address homelessness, so I think it’s cool that they’re looking at creative ways to create spaces for people to be sheltered in.”

HSC provides overnight beds for about 900 people, and services for an additional 800 who camp outside in the area near downtown Phoenix known as the Zone, near Madison and 12 streets.

Schwabendler said there is a desperate need for the ‘XWing’ project but hopes others that help people keep their homes also get funding.

“It can’t be a shelter-only conversation because that’s just managing homelessness,” Schwabendler said.

The project will be federally financed by reallocated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The Council also reallocated $2.5 million for operations and improvements at the site, and for two other projects to tackle housing and homelessness.

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