FLORENCE — Pinal County has received a one-time grant of $2.2 million to provide shelter and other services to individuals experiencing homelessness as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
The Board of Supervisors voted to accept the grant agreement Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Pinal County will be required to submit an allocation plan outlining the use of funds and will seek public participation and reach out to partner organizations to form a plan, Pinal County Grants Coordinator Heather Patel told the board. There will also be a public hearing in the next couple of months before the Board of Supervisors.
County staff have already discussed it with some partners and plan to bring it up next week at the Pinal County Coalition to End Homelessness, Patel said. Veterans and domestic violence victims have options designed to serve them, but Pinal County doesn’t have shelters for the general population who are homeless, Patel said.
The grant can be used to buy or rehabilitate buildings to house the homeless. Patel said the trend now is to turn old hotels into shelters. The county could also provide funding to groups who provide rental assistance.
But the problem is a shortage of rental units in Pinal County and a lack of landlords interested in participating in these programs. Rents also tend to be higher than what the county can pay with these programs, Patel told the board.
“Those are some of the things we will take into consideration when we are talking with our partners, to figure out what our proposed plan would be.” Supervisors Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said the county should be using the grant toward a more permanent solution to the problem.
Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, added, “I think it’s important that we make sure that this does go to the people that need it and not just to pad the pockets of the nonprofits that will be disbursing it. Something for us to watch for.”
“I’m glad to see this,” Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge said. “I’m acquainted with a number of homeless people in the town where I live.” He asked how many homeless people there are in Pinal County.
Patel said the most recent survey wasn’t completed this year because of the pandemic, but last year there were more than 100, not including people in domestic violence shelters or other temporary housing through those organizations. Neither does it count people in the “homeless management information system” who may be receiving help from the county’s partner organizations.
“We can’t just say there’s 100 un-sheltered people. There’s plenty more because they go into and out of the systems,” Patel said.