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Omicron puts kibosh on annual Tucson homeless survey

A surge in coronavirus cases has forced a coalition of social service organizations to cancel an annual count of homeless people living in Tucson.

The Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness and the city of Tucson have called off the 2022 tally of people experiencing homelessness in Pima County. The Unsheltered Point in Time Count, commonly referred to as a “street count,” was originally scheduled for this Wednesday, Jan. 26.

More than 300 people had signed up to volunteer to help in the count.

“Despite the overwhelming support from the community, the current rise in COVID-19 infection rates in Pima County forced us to cancel this year’s count,” said Daniela Figueroa, coalition chairperson.

This is the second year the coalition has canceled the count due to the ongoing pandemic.

The annual count is required as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care program, which provides the coalition and other agencies in Pima County $10.6 million in federal funds to address homelessness. It is designed to promote community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness and provide funding for efforts by nonprofit providers and state and local governments.

The idea is to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing trauma and dislocation. It promotes access to and effective use of "mainstreaming" programs to help individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency.

“Although we will not conduct a traditional count this year, we are working closely with staff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a local estimate of unsheltered homelessness using existing data from our street outreach, emergency shelter, and other community programs,” said Jason Thorpe, community services administrator with the city's Housing & Community Development department. “These data sets provide a more robust picture of homelessness in the Tucson area than any single count can capture, and they present a more realistic estimation of the number of people experiencing homelessness in our region.”

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Efforts to find and count homeless in Tucson has been canceled by coronavirus for second year in a row.