John Angelo introduced our speaker of the day Karen Blackbird, Resident Services Manager for Mercy Housing Southwest Arizona. Karen moved to Arizona to get her master’s degree at ASU (go Sun Devils) where she graduated in 2001. She feels fortunate to have worked in the social services arena in the areas of Foster Care, Adoptions, Counseling, Mental Health, the homeless, seniors and Veterans. Currently Karen works with Mercy Housing South-west as the Resident Services Manager for 13 affordable housing properties in Arizona that serve low-income seniors and individuals with special needs. 

What followed was a fast paced informative, fact laden presentation about homelessness in Arizona in general and Mercy Housing in particular. Karen explained that Sister Timothy Marie O’Roark, a Sister of Mercy of Omaha, who witnessed the horrible conditions in which poor families lived, founded Mercy Housing in 1981. She saw that many had little or no help accessing af-fordable housing, and she vowed, “We can do better.” Some 35 years later, Mercy Housing serves nearly 60,000 people in 21 states with over 22,500 units of housing and is one of the largest affordable housing providers in the United States. Mercy Housing provides housing and other services in El Mirage, Avondale, Tolleson, Glendale, Guadalupe, Mesa, Gilbert, Tucson and five centers in Phoenix. 



Mercy Housing AZ serves more than 700 low-income families, seniors, veterans, refuges and people with special needs by providing safe and affordable homes at their 13 Mercy communities. 

Karen indicated that people who live at Mercy Housing have often struggled with some of life’s toughest challenges: housing costs, job losses, illness, substance abuse, trauma, and isolation to name a few. 

She shared that 70% of their residents are families, 21% seniors and 9% people with special needs (HIV/AIDS, formerly homeless individuals, veterans and people with physical and mental impairments). The average wait list is 2.5 years. Mercy Housing focuses on social services to improve quality of life. 

Karen explained that while the median income of homeowners is $64,640 and for renters $36,896 (43% less), the median annual income for a Mercy Housing Southwest household is $13,290, less than a fourth of the median annual household income in the region. Sadly, in Arizona, a person working full time at minimum wage $17 would have to work 60 hours to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market value. 


Karen summarized her talk with these major “Take Aways” 


 _Phoenix homeless population is decreasing! 

 _Arizona unemployment is very low. 

 _Housing costs in AZ are at an all time high! 

 _Low rate units are unavailable in Arizona. 

 _Low income residents cannot save creating a cycle of poverty.

 _Seniors population is growing significantly. 

 _No current federal/state plan to change the situation. 



Arizona Homeless Problem 

 _13% of homeless individuals are homeless for the 1st time. 

 _20,350 Arizonans were homeless in 2018 (Ranked 10th nation-ally)

 _61% of people experiencing homelessness were men and 39% women. 

 _In 2017, over one-fifth of people experiencing homelessness were children 


 _For more information go to: