PHOENIX — The homeless population in Maricopa County has surged by 35% over the past two years, according to the Associated Press, and senior citizens make up the fastest growing segment in Arizona.

Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) CEO Lisa Glow gave KTAR News 92.3 FM’s  Gaydos & Chad several reasons why, including health, housing and income.

“They’re all based in economics,” Glow said on Thursday. “Fixed incomes, we see a lot of people who stay in our 520-bed shelter who are elderly, who their income, Social Security is $700 to $800 a month. You can’t afford a one-bedroom on that.

“People lose jobs, their health declines both physical or cognitive, they lose a spouse or have a divorce, all of those factors are contributing because it’s harder when you’re elderly to get back on your feet. ”

The homeless rates in Arizona have been rising for five years, according to CASS, and increased rent prices continue to instigate the issue.

The average rent in Phoenix during February was $1,547, according to RentCafe. The average was below $1,200 in November, 2020.

“We have to build more housing that is supportive of our seniors that are becoming homeless,” Glow said. “Most of them have very low incomes and the housing doesn’t exist. Those are the challenges.”

Glow told a story of an 83-year-old woman earning $860 a month whose roommate kicked her out during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no available affordable housing, and the woman became homeless for the first time.

The CEO said 30% of homeless individuals involved with CASS, the largest emergency shelter program in Arizona, are seniors and the rate is growing.

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