Statistically, most people are closer to being homeless than they are to being millionaires. The longer someone is on the streets, the harder it is to escape -- there are too many barriers. There are dozens of nonprofits that provide services to the unsheltered, but in order to truly solve homelessness, people need to work to remove the institutional barriers that keep people homeless.

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Episode 1: Street Living

Tents along a street in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix.

As volunteers hit the streets to count the numbers of unsheltered homeless in Maricopa County, Unsheltered will delve into why Phoenix has such a problem, what can be done about it, and why it's so hard to fix.

Episode 2: Illness & Incarceration

Carolyn Moore

Once someone ends up homeless, systematic and legal barriers make it exceedingly difficult to escape. A majority of homeless people find themselves involved with law enforcement, and managing a chronic medical condition is complicated by the realities of life on the streets. With a criminal record or a chronic illness, finding stable housing becomes nearly impossible.


Episode 3: Improvise: Homeless During Crisis

It's safe to argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster. And the way we prepare for, respond to and discuss disasters in the United States often excludes the homeless and poor - to their detriment. From emergency shelter to relief and recovery, disaster response isn't designed to include the homeless.

Episode 4: New Normal

COVID Testing

The post-pandemic world will be a lot different from the pre-pandemic world. At this moment, nobody really knows what the next week will look like - let alone the next year. That uncertainty raises several challenges and questions for the organizations that serve unsheltered Arizonans.

Episode 5: Assembly Line Justice

Homeless tents lined up along a downtown Phoenix street

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It's not a crime to be homeless. But survival for unsheltered people sometimes means standing or sleeping in odd places, fighting to maintain space or belongings, and escaping the situation through drugs, all of which often lead to misdemeanor charges. Those who are arrested for low-level offenses like trespassing, disorderly conduct, or simple possession face a justice system where cases are disposed of in minutes, without access to legal counsel, and with lasting impacts on their ability to escape homelessness.

Episode 6: Sentenced

Maricopa County Superior Court building in downtown Phoenix. Sky Schaudt/KJZZ

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Sentences for misdemeanor crimes typically include fines and probation. While it's easy to say those sentences aren't harsh, for the poorest people in Arizona, the effects of these penalties often far outweigh the seriousness of their crimes. For the large number of Americans who are one unexpected expense away from losing everything, a fine or probation could be what makes them homeless.