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HOMELESS

Strings to state money for housing homeless people at Scottsdale hotel cut

Posted 8/25/23

The Arizona Department of Housing is cutting the strings attached to a $940,000 grant to house homeless people at an undisclosed hotel near Pima and Indian Bend in Scottsdale.

The grant, which …

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HOMELESS

Strings to state money for housing homeless people at Scottsdale hotel cut

Posted

The Arizona Department of Housing is cutting the strings attached to a $940,000 grant to house homeless people at an undisclosed hotel near Pima and Indian Bend in Scottsdale.

The grant, which the Scottsdale City Council accepted during its June 27 meeting, is to rent 10 rooms in the hotel. It stipulated that three of the rooms had to be used to house people living in the homeless encampment around the humane services campus in downtown Phoenix known as the zone and could be used to help immigrants.

However, Rep. Matt Gress, R-District 4, challenged that stipulation in a letter to the Arizona Department of Housing dated Aug. 3, stating it was illegal.

The Arizona Department of Housing responded with a letter dated Aug. 18 stating it will not enforce that stipulation.

“I think the proposed conversion of some hotels rooms that are operating as retail into a homeless shelter and putting people from the zone or foreign nationals into the hotel is irresponsible and illegal,” Gress said.
Gress isn’t done though. He wants to throw out the idea of housing homeless in parts of hotels all together.

“I’m not in favor of revoking money but I do think those dollars can be spent more effectively in different ways,” Gress said. “First of all there is a problem with operating a normal hotel and again using some of the rooms converted into a homeless shelter. It doesn’t make sense, especially when you have people who are destitute, in a tragic situation and then right next door, you have a family on vacation.”

Using part of a hotel as a homeless shelter doesn’t allow for wrap-around services to be offered efficiently, he said.

But the program has been in place for a year now with Scottsdale Human Services Director Greg Bestgen reporting during the city council’s June 27 meeting an 84% success rate in getting people into more permanent housing within 30 days by providing wrap-around services and nutritional assistance.

Gress also feels stake holders located around the hotel should have been consulted before it was converted into a “quasi-homeless shelter.”

“There was no engagement with McCormick Ranch ... HOA ... which is adjacent,” Gress said. “There was no conversation with Great Hearts school which is within 2,000 feet of this facility.”

Gress intends to hold a Legislative Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the issue Sept. 13.

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega called Gress’ stance “hypocrisy.”

“As chairman of the house appropriations subcommittee on budget funding formulas, Rep. Matt Gress signed off, approved and voted (in committee) for the funding source he disputes today,” Ortega wrote in a text to the Daily Independent. “On the Senate side, Sen. John Kavanaugh, chairman of appropriations, also approved of the funding and Gress and Kavanaugh voted for the designated funding a second time in the adopted state budget. It is unclear why Rep. Gress contradicts himself now. Some might call it hypocrisy. What I do know is, that Scottsdale will use the funding for Scottsdale area veterans, displaced seniors and single-parent families."

Scottsdale City Councilman Barry Graham, who was the lone vote against the city accepting the grant on the grounds that nearby landowners where not notified of the plan ahead of time, wants to see the program halted altogether in favor of a regional approach that would include a shelter somewhere other than Scottsdale.

“Then you can pool resources with nearby municipalities. You can help people who are transient get out of their situation,” Graham said.

J. Graber can be reached at jgraber@iniusa.org. We invite our readers to submit their civil comments pro or con on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.