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Waitlist for families seeking emergency shelter in Maricopa County grows to nearly 2 months

The waitlist for families needing emergency shelter in Maricopa County is now up to almost two months, according to UMOM's CEO Jackson Fonder.

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — It's taking longer for families on the street to find a place to live, even temporarily, in Maricopa County. 

The waitlist for families needing emergency shelter in Maricopa County is now up to almost two months, according to UMOM's CEO Jackson Fonder.

Living on the streets 

Sitting in UMOM's shelter courtyard, Stephanie Escalante has found a brief home for her and her family. 

"Before we got here we were living in her truck for a little bit so it was like perfect timing when they called us to come here," Escalante said. 

Her five-year-old daughter, Karely Arizmendez sits next to Escalante clutching a teddy bear on a bench as Escalante recalls how just a few months ago, her family of three was living in their truck for almost a week.

"It was just hard having to put her (Karely) in that situation," Escalante said "I didn't want to."

Escalante said she, her boyfriend and her daughter were living with family, but as they went to find a place of their own, they couldn't afford rent. 

"Here we got a lot more help. I get the opportunity to save money to get a place," Escalante said. 

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More families seeking shelter

According to UMOM, 201 families are on the Maricopa County list for emergency shelter. Of those, 156 families are living on the street or in their cars. 

Earlier this year, Fonder said the waitlist in Maricopa County was 10 families and two weeks tops. Now, Fonder said the waitlist has grown to seven and a half weeks. 

"It's devastating when you have to look a family in the eyes and tell them they've got to wait two months," Fonder said. 

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More beds needed

Fonder said it's climbing rent, the eviction moratorium expiring and the pandemic leading to more people needing help. 

"All of these things are brewing at the same time, making for a really difficult time for a lot of families," Fonder said. 

UMOM provides three out of every four beds for emergency family shelters in Maricopa County. Fonder said they can care for 160 families at a time, which is about 400 to 500 people on their campus. 

Expecting the waitlist to get longer, Fonder said more space is needed. 

"We need to try and continue to figure out a way to add 10 rooms here, 20 rooms there so that that waitlist comes down and down and down and we get the families off the streets," Fonder said. 

Escalante said she's continuing to search for a permanent place to raise her daughter with the support of UMOM. 

"I feel bad that there are still people on the waitlist," Escalante said. "We’re really grateful for being here."

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