Phoenix to help homeless on light rail system

PHOENIX — The light rail system for metro Phoenix is taking steps to help homeless people who have prompted complaints from other passengers about unruly behavior and other concerns.

The Phoenix City Council approved an expansion to Phoenix CARES — a program to increase services and combat the impact of homelessness — that focuses specifically on the light rail and its stations, The Arizona Republic reported .

The transit department is paying for a new $125,000 outreach team to engage and transport people experiencing homelessness to emergency shelters and other services.

The city hired Community Bridges, a local nonprofit, to provide the outreach teams.

The transit department doesn’t have the experience needed to connect with people experiencing homelessness, but Community Bridges can provide “sensitive engagement,” the city’s director of high-capacity transit Albert Santana said.

Nate Smith, community engagement manager at Phoenix Rescue Mission, said the light rail system is “big-time impacted by homelessness” because people who live on the streets often use the public transportation system.

Many people may not engage on the first attempt, but the chance of connecting someone with needed help increases if experienced individuals continue reaching out, Smith said.

The light rail is owned and operated by Valley Metro, but the transportation authority relies heavily on the cities the rail line traverses — Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa — to assist with safety and security, according to Valley Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose.

Other programs funded and operated through partnerships with the cities include jaywalking enforcement campaigns and additional police enforcement near stations, Foose said.

Phoenix Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit provides eight extra-duty police officers focused on the light rail.

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