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Six cities, one county have plans to use state funds to help homeless

Six Arizona cities and one county with emergency plans to house the homeless will split $20 million in state funding.

For Tucson, this means a $2.7 million grant to purchase the 67-room Knights Inn on South Cracroft Road, Mayor Regina Romero said.

Scottsdale will use the $940,000 to extend a contract it has with a local hotel owner.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said the city of Tempe will receive $929,000 for new assistance experts to upgrade city-run shelters and help people find permanent homes. said it was hiring more

And with the city of Flagstaff receiving $840,000, Mayor Becky Daggett said the city will partner with local providers to facilitate temporary housing and housing assistance for families experiencing homelessness.

And Mesa, Phoenix, and Coconino counties are also seeing dollars pouring out.

State Housing Commissioner Joanne Servis said Wednesday that the decision to give these funds to these communities, and to other cities to the exclusion, does not represent a judgment on the merits of their proposal. said no.

The request totaled more than $46 million, she told Capitol Media Services, more than double the immediate grants available to her agency.

So we had to prioritize the $20 million available. And one of the key factors is how quickly the funds are available to the community, Servis said.

He also said a separate $40 million in additional funding will be made available to candidates later this year.

Arizona already has a housing trust fund that received an injection from Congress of $60 million this year, plus another $150 million next fiscal year. These funds can be used for a wide range of programs, such as helping people stay at home or underwriting the cost of building new affordable housing.

But legislators and Gov. Katie Hobbs recognized the high numbers of people already on the streets and created a separate homeless shelter and services fund to address the problem. and soon.

What this means is that those who are already ready to spend cash get it first, Servis said.

“Recognizing the urgency, we really wanted to focus on quick move-in housing solutions,” she said. This specifically includes available hotel conversions.

Tucson Mayor Romero said the concept is not new to her community. He said the city has already used federal COVID-19 relief funds to purchase four other facilities.
More importantly, Romero has been successful in moving people to more permanent solutions by offering them actual hotel rooms rather than some sort of apartment complex, and has been working for the past 18 years. In March, 639 people said they are currently living in their residences.

“So we want to keep expanding the program,” she said.

“Knights Inn is now available,” said Romero, who expects to complete the deal at the end of July. “This proposal came out of our readiness.”

Servis said that preparation made all the difference. Still, that didn’t mean it met all that any community wanted.

Tucson, for example, demanded $6.8 million. Romero said the city plans to use the difference not only for housing, but also for other “all-inclusive” services, such as grants to nonprofits that help homeless people get back on their feet.

Servis said all the community, whether they made money this time or not, would be given another chance at the $40 million that will be available after July 1st. Told.

The entire $60 million, she says, is designed to deal with what she calls “a complete storm of unprotected homelessness.”

The city of Phoenix, for example, is dealing with a court ruling seeking the eviction of people living on the streets in the so-called “Zone,” an area outside the Central Arizona Shelter Services just east of the State Capitol. . The judge concluded that by allowing up to 900 people to camp out at any one time, the city ignored the fact that it was a public nuisance to nearby residents and businesses.

And then there was the expiration of Title 42 of the Federal Law, which allowed the government to immediately deport some asylum seekers. As a result, people flooded across the border at first, and once in Arizona, they often had nowhere else to go.

And many “hospitable living homes” have also closed, in part as a result of state moves to crack down on fraud by the operators of these establishments. As a result, many residents were forced out onto the streets.

Romero said the city of Tucson has pushed in a big way to provide individual housing rather than mass shelters during the pandemic because tourism has dried up and there were a significant number of unused hotel rooms. And the mayor said the city saw immediate results.

“What we’ve seen with that model is that it works,” she said.

“We wanted to stabilize people in housing first,” Romero said. “We were able to move people from homelessness to hotels, to more permanent supportive housing, and then to permanent housing with vouchers.”

But the experience taught another lesson.

“Renting a room is very expensive,” she said. And that led to her suggestion that the city buy the hotel instead, Romero said.

Still, the mayor said the city is still using the vouchers as needed.

The decision to fund programs to move people into housing comes amid continuing debate that such a move would be premature until other issues related to homelessness are resolved first. rice field. These range from reducing harmful behaviors such as substance addiction and mental health problems to helping people find jobs and increase their income.

Tucson has settled on a “housing first” approach.

According to the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the initiative allows people to use housing without first requiring them to have jobs or participate in programs that address behavioral health and substance abuse issues. is to make it possible.

The agency’s website states that “after people are given a permanent roof over their heads, they can maximize the benefits of these services and make personal changes to improve their housing stability.” has been shown in studies,” he said. It also said that this approach recognizes that each person’s experience is different and everyone has the right to make their own decisions, regardless of their housing situation.

“This includes helping people make their own decisions about where to live, where and what types of services they participate in, employment and personal goals,” the agency said.

Romero said he believes people should have different options.

“Some people say ‘housing comes first,’ while others say ‘treatment comes first,'” she says. “I will say anything to help people in need.”

In a statement prepared by the governor, the combination of a record $150 million injection into the Homeless Protection and Services Fund and the Housing Trust Fund will “ensure affordable housing for everyone in Arizona.” It shows that we are making real progress towards

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