Tempe Works is an innovative, two-year pilot program that showcases Tempe’s determination to end homelessness. The first-of-its kind program combines part-time city employment, housing and social services to assist individuals in ending their homelessness.
The idea was brought to the City Council by Councilmember Randy Keating in 2017; he and Councilmember Joel Navarro and Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage led a City Manager’s Working Group to develop the idea. Approved by the City Council in 2017, the program hinges on a partnership among city staff, Tempe Community Action Agency, I-HELP and Corporate Job Bank.
In early 2018, two men were selected as the first Tempe Works participants. They receive minimum wage, assistance with transportation and equipment needs, and eventually, assistance with housing. They work in Public Works-related roles, such as maintaining compost piles, serving as a vehicle wash bay attendant and more.
Navy veteran charting new course with Tempe Works
Ron Ackerman has been rebuilding his broken world after many hard years on the streets. The Navy veteran is charting a new course thanks to a new place to call home and the city’s Tempe Works jobs program, which put him to work at city parks and gave him the boost he needed to plan for the future. Read more.
Working to end homelessness
Tempe is taking action and making strides to end homelessness, with park cleanups and housing people.
Ending homelessness does not mean there will never be another homeless person in Tempe. It refers to a state of “functional zero,” meaning that the efficiency and availability of assistance services locally and regionally will be built up to enable future incidences of homelessness to be reduced, non-recurring and brief. In this state of functional zero, the availability of services exceeds the need.
Park encampments are being cleaned up. About 99 people have been permanently housed from mid-2017 to early 2018 through the work of the city’s Homeless Outreach Program Effort (HOPE). Hundreds of others have been contacted in Tempe to begin relationships of trust that can eventually lead to acceptance of services.
Using federal funds during the Great Recession, Tempe successfully piloted a permanent supportive housing program. Those funds are no longer available, but 80 percent of the individuals helped in the pilot program are still successfully housed today.
In addition to the work of the HOPE team, each year, the city budgets about $1.3 million to support local human services organizations. Some of the organizations include homeless services such as I-HELP and Tumbleweed, as well as homelessness prevention programs such as food banks and more.
Homelessness is a challenging, multifaceted national issue that impacts many cities. Mental and physical health, poverty past trauma and drug addiction make this a complicated endeavor. Ending homelessness takes patience, compassion and commitment.
Helping the chronically homeless is a top priority for the City of Tempe. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines the “chronically homeless” as those with a disability who have been homeless for at least one year or who have experienced four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. The chronically homeless are often those we see sleeping in public places, exhibiting mental illness, being frequently arrested for misdemeanor crimes and creating unhealthy encampments in parks.
Homelessness is not a criminal activity. But behaviors such as littering, creating public health risks and fostering a threatening atmosphere, are not acceptable. No one should feel intimidated by park conditions or the behaviors of others in the parks.
Another City Manager’s Working Group of City Councilmembers is examining a Housing First approach to homelessness. This approach focuses on housing people as a first step, followed by providing needed mental health and other services.