Our History


Emergency shelter saves lives.  Imagine sleeping in alleys, under bushes, tents, having all your possessions stolen, dealing with inclement weather, always worrying about your safety, and being preyed upon.  That is life sleeping on the street.

Ending homelessness starts with emergency shelter.  At CASS, emergency shelter is having a place to lay your head at night, safely.  It is also a connection to services to help end the cycle of homelessness – case management, clothing, health services, job hunting, resume building, obtaining IDs, and so much more. 

Since 1984, CASS has worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness in the early 1980s was increasing in Phoenix and across the country. The unemployment rate in November 1982 peaked at 10.8%. The impact on the homeless population was further exacerbated by downtown redevelopment as old residential buildings were replaced by luxury residences and office buildings.

Hands joined together celebrating the completion of the Homeless Shelter are from left, William P. Mahoney, Chairman of Central Arizona Shelter Services; Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard; Tom Freestone, Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; Pat Cantelme, President of the Central Arizona Labor Council; Harold “Smitty” Smith, Superintendent on the construction project and Guy Loenis, Construction Manager for Whalers Construction. Whalers was the General Contractor for the Homeless Shelter.

— Photo by Bob Rink

“Through the years, CASS has stretched itself to meet the changing needs of its clients. In the 60s and 70s, the word homeless referred primarily to single men. By the 1980s, changing economic forces meant that homeless were frequently families.  And today, the fastest growing populations of homeless are seniors and the working poor.”

— John Rivers
CASS Board Member

In 1983, there was a city in crisis…homeless tent cities abounded, services were scarce, people were afraid – both the housed and unhoused.



1983 — Meetings begin with community leaders to discuss the issue of homelessness – key players include Terry Goddard, Pat Cantelme, Bill Mahoney and John Frank.

1984 — CASS receives its 501(c)(3) status.

1985 — CASS opens its first shelter at 1209 W. Madison, led by Chair Bill Mahoney and Executive Director Mary Orton. Terry Goddard negotiates per capita contribution from each city around the Valley.

1987 — CASS begins providing job training and employment services.

1988 — Implementation of case management for
CASS guests. Pilot education program that later becomes Pappas School for the Homeless opens in a single room at CASS.

1989 — CASS Family Programming begins.


1990 — CASS’ Family services program opens a certified Child Development Center. Addition of health care service availability.
1991 President HW Bush honors CASS as a “Point of Light.”

1992 — CASS Shelter for Families opens for 30 families in Sunnyslope neighborhood.

1996 — CASS Steele Commons project renovates and opens 60 one-bedroom apartments for working poor and creates a housing subsidiary, Arizona Housing Initiative (AHI).

1997 — Mary Orton moves on from CASS, Mark Holleran replaces her at the helm.

1999 — CASS establishes “CASS Works”— a temporary employment service to counter the exploitive practices homeless individuals encountered in day labor services.


2000 — CASS Dental Clinic opens with Dr. Kris Volchek’s leadership, later became Brighter Way Dental Clinic.

2002 — Groundbreaking ceremony for the creation of the 14-acre Human Services Campus, created in joint public/private partnership. Lodestar Day Resource Center founded with funding from Jerry Hirsch.

2003 — CASS shelters overloaded. Implementation of HMIS integrated software for wraparound coordinated care services.

2004 — Joe Anderson donates a ’65 Mustang for CASS raffle fundraiser.

2005 — CASS responds to the heat-related deaths of 30 homeless individuals by managing a men’s overflow shelter facility housing 300 men each night. Grand opening of the Human Services Campus and CASS’ single adult shelter is relocated.


2010 — Veteran’s program expands dramatically and per diem program provided separate bed areas and specialized care.

2010-2012 — CASS’ AHI expands to oversee five affordable housing properties for majority formerly homeless tenants.

2016 — Dinner for Dignity becomes CASS’ most successful fundraiser, led by Lisa and Jeff Geyser.

2018 — Jenny Norton & Bob Ramsey become Dinner for Dignity’s founding honorees.

2019 — Terry Goddard, Jerry Hirsch, Bob Ramsey & Jenny Norton honored at annual Dinner for Dignity gala. Glendale building donated by Bob Ramsey & Jenny Norton to establish CASS’ services in West Valley.

2020 — Senior program implemented to provide specialized case management and care to senior population within CASS. Project Haven temporary hotel established to provide specialized shelter for seniors and medically at-risk during Coronavirus pandemic.

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