PHOENIX - A new homeless shelter for seniors is taking shape at an old Phoenix hotel.
Arizona's homeless population has been on the rise for the past decade, which was only made worse with a pandemic and the rising cost of housing. However, older hotels may be a solution.
The former Phoenix Inn along Interstate 17 and Northern Avenue used to house weary travelers, but soon it will provide shelter for homeless people over the age of 55.
The Arizona Dept. of Housing put up $7.5 million for the hotel, and the city council agreed to pay another $4 million to rehabilitate the property.
Its code name? Project Haven. It is about to become the Valley's first emergency homeless facility for seniors.
Reverend Cleo Lewis, who was once homeless himself, helps others dealing with similar situations.
"I was homeless in my early 50s," Lewis said. "I couldn’t imagine somebody in their 60s, 70s and even beyond having to deal with the same mechanics that I had to deal with."
Officials say this demographic is the fastest rising segment of the homeless population, known as the "silver tsunami."
"The silver tsunami was a problem pre-pandemic," said Lisa Glow, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services. "Unfortunately it is going to get worse."
The facility will have up to 170 beds in 130 rooms inside a closed campus, usually for about a 90-day stay.
"Probably [in] most cases with our seniors, [they stay] longer because we don’t have enough affordable housing at this point - another huge challenge leading to more homelessness," Glow said.
The hotel's main purpose is to provide temporary shelter until the guests can make it back home again.
"This was what I needed, and I am interested in being a part in the challenge as to what we need to do next," Rev. Lewis said.
Homeless advocates say they worked closely getting the approval of the neighborhood, and expect to have more hotels turn into homeless facilities in the coming years.
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