The controversial plan to use 10 rooms at a local hotel as transitional housing for the homeless will move forward this year.
The Scottsdale city council voted 6-1 during its Sept. 19 meeting to pay the Independence 47 Hotel $500,000 in state grant money to rent the rooms for the coming year.
The rest of the $940,000 grant will be used to pay for wraparound service like food assistance and case management.
City council member Barry Graham was the lone vote against moving forward with the plan.
Graham had offered his vote if the motion to proceed carried stipulations that no one from the homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix known as “the zone” and no foreign nationals could use the rooms.
“This is about allaying (residents’) concerns,” Graham said.
Vice mayor Kathy Littlefield seconded Graham’s proposed amendment.
“Since it is how it is already, I really don’t see that it would make any difference,” Littlefield explained.
But Graham’s proposed amendment was voted down 5-2.
The council voted 6-1 to accept the grant money to continue the program, which has already been running for a year, during it’s June 27 meeting – Graham was the lone vote against that, too, on the grounds that he felt people were not properly notified of the program.
That move drew the attention of some in the community as well as state Rep. Matt Gress, R- Dist. 4, who was able to get a stipulation that three of the 10 rooms in the program must be used to house people from the zone as well as foreign nationals removed.
But Gress didn’t stop there.
Opposition to the program came to a head when Gress held a public meeting Sept. 13 attacking it.
“I will not allow the disastrous policies of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and even Phoenix seep it’s way into our community,” Gress said at that meeting.
He brought in several witnesses detailing the failures of similar programs in other cities like San Francisco.
Mayor David Ortega noted he invited Gress to come to Scottsdale to learn about the program, including visiting the hotel, five times but Gress refused each time.
“Unfortunately the reach that he took in bringing people in from 800 miles away, from San Francisco, is mischaracterizing the participants, including 52 children who are finding a place safe until they can be finding their way to a better situation,” Ortega said.
City Councilmember Tom Durham addressed many of the concerns expressed during the Sept.19 meeting.
“Has anyone from the zone been allowed in this program?” Durham asked Scottsdale Human Services Director Greg Bestgen.
“No, they have not,” Bestgen said.
“Any foreign nationals been allowed in the program?” Durham asked.
“No, they have not been,” Bestgen said.
Bestgen went on to state that the only criminal incident created by program clients involved someone who did not return a rental car.
“It didn’t involve the use of ellicit drugs or anything in the program,” Bestgen said.
He also confirmed by police that a man who recently led police on a chase and pulled into the Independence 47 had no affiliation to the program, Bestgen said.
In response to a question by Durham, Bestgen went on to say the program is not just a “housing first” approach, but involves a high level of case management.
“That’s really the key to the success of the program,” Bestgen said.
The program has had a 84% success rate in getting people into more stable housing after leaving the hotel.
All but two of the speakers at the council’s Sept. 19 meeting urged support for the program.
“I hear from people, if you’re homeless, you’re a criminal, you’re on drugs, you have emotional issues,” said Andrew Scheck, who sits on the Scottsdale Environmental Board and the Council of Greater Scottsdale. “As mentioned, it’s just not that anymore. We have inflation. We have jobs that don’t pay enough. We have rent increases that just make life unaffordable any more. Trust me, I know personally at this point. We have to show a caring human nature and compassion for people. I think this program does it.”
Original Article can be found here