Arizona Woman Who Finds Unhoused Couple Living on Her New Home's Porch Helps Them Get Back on Their Feet

A PhD student working on heat and health, Liza Kurtz said unhoused people having nowhere to stay but concrete with no shade, when the summer is coming, can be dangerous. "It really is a health and safety issue in a lot of ways," she said.

When Liza Kurtz first moved into her new Arizona home in April, it wasn’t quite empty.

An unhoused couple was living on the porch while the house was empty, with the permission of the previous owner. “They said when the new owner comes in, they’ll probably ask you to move on,” Kurtz told KPHO.

But she decided they could stay, saying, "Of course we're not going to move you on when the next place you go is a stretch of concrete with no shade, when the summer is coming on and things are heating up. It really is a health and safety issue in a lot of ways."

A PhD student working on heat and health in Phoenix, Kurtz is particularly concerned about such issues. 

The hot days forced the couple to put up a tarp to shield them from the sun, which led to city officials issuing Kurtz a notice of ordinance violation. 

"And it was just saying, visible tarps are against ordinance and that it needs to be removed," she said. 

Kurtz was taken aback, but because of her work, she knew Phoenix city officials were trying to solve the growing homeless problem as well as beautify the neighborhood. So instead of getting upset, she took a different approach. 

"I was literally like, OK, there’s these two separate systems that are interacting and touching and they’re in conflict with one another, what can we do to resolve that and get on the same page?" she said. 

She reached out to the city and explained the situation. “This property owner has shown initiative and compassion, and we believe that by working together the violations can be addressed without the need to issue a citation," the City of Phoenix said, in part, in a statement to KPHO. 

Her unhoused neighbors are receiving help, and have secured job interviews

"That’s really only been able to happen because they have somewhere to shower, they have somewhere to go laundry, they have a safe place to leave their stuff that’s not on the street and it’ll be there when they get back. Sometimes all people need is that little respite, that little nudge," Kurtz said.

Kurtz said she is also speaking with city officials about how they can help this couple get back on their feet. 

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