CASS's COVID-19 RESPONSE
— CASS Update from Lisa Glow, CEO —
Introducing CASS’ Project Haven:
A Temporary Emergency Homeless Shelter Specifically for Vulnerable Populations
As Arizona’s oldest and largest emergency homeless shelter, CASS’ focus during the pandemic has been to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by taking all actions necessary to ensure the health, safety and wellness of their homeless clients, employees, and the broader community. Additionally, we have focused on shoring up housing programs, resources, and partnerships to capitalize on all opportunities to move people quickly into transitional and permanent housing.
While community funding is always essential to CASS’ programs, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has created extraordinary unplanned expenses and challenges. Particular among those challenges is the need to find safe and supportive emergency housing options for the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Phoenix has partnered with CASS to address the increase of homelessness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically to provide care for the elderly and other vulnerable populations. The project will utilize funding through the CARES Act for one year and was approved by the Phoenix City Council on May 6th.
We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the City of Phoenix to expand our services to provide our seniors with specialized shelter, as well as tools and resources to help them find permanent housing opportunities. The need for specialized shelter for our seniors has been a main focus at CASS for the last few years as the number of homeless seniors has tragically risen, and projections are that the 65 and older homeless population will triple by 2030.
The new shelter project, called Project Haven, will utilize a hotel property near downtown Phoenix that will allow for 95 separate units with private bathroom facilities. Meals, security, laundry, and other basic services will be provided on site. CASS staff will provide case management services to assist guests in finding long-term housing solutions. As an emergency shelter, the goal is to maintain short lengths-of-stay for each guest by focusing on expedited rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing opportunities.
With the City of Phoenix, we are working urgently to keep people safe, and to do all we can to make sure we don’t have a COVID-19 outbreak in the homeless community, which could create a great risk of community spread. We are truly excited about their long-term strategizing with the CARES Act funding, particularly to leverage building more housing and a better infrastructure to serve the homeless.
CASS’ support of last session’s Senate Bill 1283 to build an emergency senior shelter was triggered by the unique needs of this special and most vulnerable population. The bill, which was introduced by Senator David Livingston and had passed through the Arizona Senate, was unfortunately not pushed forward as a result of the early session end due to the pandemic.
Even though a permanent shelter location has not yet come to fruition, we are optimistic that with advocacy and additional funding from the community we will be able to make a permanent senior shelter a reality in 2021.
At the end of this pandemic, we want to be able to say that we not only protected our community, but we also made a significant and lasting impact to end homelessness for hundreds of our homeless neighbors.