How Downtown is Tackling Homelessness, 'Together'

by R.J. Price
Community R.J. Price February 9, 2023

“What’s being done about our region’s homelessness and affordable housing crises?”

It’s a common question you’ll hear throughout Downtown and across the region, and if you’re inside local government, on the front lines, or a member of an advocacy group like Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA), you know the answer is “More than ever before.”

For the average Phoenician, Downtown resident or visitor to our destination, however, the answer isn’t quite so clear.

That’s why Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI) is leading a grassroots community-driven campaign to shine a light on all of the impactful work being done in our city to combat homelessness and the rising affordable housing deficit, while simultaneously making it easier to navigate the wide array of services and resources readily available.

We’re In This Together (dtphx.org/together) aggregates dozens of service providers, non-profit organizations and crisis hotlines in one easy-to-access location, so that no matter where you are on the spectrum—from someone who is experiencing homelessness or facing a hardship, to those who’d like to make a positive contribution to a worthy cause—help is a just couple of smart phone clicks or a call away.

“I commend DPI for bringing together a multitude of businesses, nonprofit agencies, local government officials, and residents to respond to those persons experiencing homelessness in a thoughtful and timely manner,” said Dr. Sheila Harris, co-chair of PCA’s Social and Housing Advancement Committee. “It is rare to see such disparate entities working together to achieve a common outcome that helps everyone.”

You’ll see We’re In This Together posters and flyers throughout Downtown Phoenix this week—just in time for an estimated 1,000,000 visitors to descend upon the neighborhood for Super Bowl LVII events and activities—and that’s by design. The opportunity to demonstrate the collective work and community spirit driving We’re In This Together on a global stage shouldn’t be fumbled.

“From our police department to the many service providers highlighted in the campaign, Downtown leads with services,” said DPI President & CEO Devney Majerle. “That approach has galvanized the neighborhood and the collective effort is garnering positive results.”

DPI’s services first approach doesn’t stop with We’re In This Together.

Community Bridges Inc. (CBI) Outreach Navigators like James Weed perform interviews and evaluations Downtown. (Photo: Taylor Costello)

Partnering with Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI), DPI and its team of DTPHX Ambassadors are able to engage and counsel individuals experiencing homelessness in hopes of connecting them to needed services. The program began with one dedicated CBI Outreach Navigator servicing the Downtown Business Core, to which DPI delivers enhanced municipal services. In 2022, the pilot program was expanded to two dedicated Outreach Navigators with the service area expanded north to Margaret T. Hance Park.

Early results were highly impactful: In 2022 DPI’s CBI Outreach Navigators assisted 1,000 individuals, resulting in 118 positive exits from downtown (meaning those individuals received services or housing).

These efforts caught the attention of the National Football League, which last week green-lit a $50,000 grant to help DPI sustain and grow its partnership with CBI.

Ending homelessness may be aspirational but tackling the crisis and improving the lives of people in our community is something we can all do. Together.