Arizona seeks to establish sanctioned homeless encampments


A state homelessness bill made progress on March 22 when it passed by a 10-to-1 vote of the Arizona House Appropriations Committee, offering cities an interim solution to a persistent problem. Senate Bill 1581 would allocate $50 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to cities across the state to set up sanctioned homeless encampments and create homeless outreach teams to monitor facilities.

The bill will now go to the House for a vote, but not without additional amendments being added by the bill’s sponsor, Senator David Livingston.

Livingston, along with Justice Glock, co-author of the Cicero Institute bill (senior director of policy and research), Lisa Glow, CEO of Lodging Services in Central Arizonaand community members worked on revising the bill to provide a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

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One of the main elements of the bill is to help cities alleviate the problems they face in managing homelessness.

Livingston said the purpose of the bill is to provide a safe place for the homeless.

“Initially, the goal is to get them off the streets and into a safe environment, so they have the opportunity to live and move on. It’s not an easy solution to homelessness,” Livingston said. “There’s no one way to do it, and the bill is structured in such a way that each city applying for one of these grants would do it a little differently.”

Glow, which supports SB1581, said the bill would allow municipalities to decide how they want to create structured campsites for homeless people.

“The neighborhoods that are there to testify are invaded, as are the businesses. We want to transform Arizona, and with this bill, you can do that,” Glow said.

The goal, Glow said, is to get people without water, toilets and other facilities to better places until they can find more permanent housing.

Many residents attended the hearing to express their concern about the growing problem of homelessness in their neighborhoods, but the hearing was limited to a handful of people authorized to speak.

A resident and leader of her community, Angela Ojile, who was not allowed to testify, said after hearing that she was upset that she could not speak to committee members.

Ojile has a design studio in the heart of downtown Phoenix across from Andre House, a ministry to the homeless and poor in the Phoenix area, located at 11th Avenue and West Jackson Street.

She said the city of Phoenix shattered her opportunities to grow her business.

“One thing that nobody talks about is how does it (homelessness) affect neighborhoods, and hopefully that will affect neighborhoods in the sense that it gives people a place to go and an option, a safe option,” Ojile said.

Phoenix resident Morgan Sailor said homelessness in her neighborhood has increased, but nothing has been done about it.

“I feel like the city is letting us down and especially (in) low-income neighborhoods,” Sailor said.

Some even urged lawmakers to rethink the approval of the bill.

“The neighborhoods that are there to testify are invaded, as are the businesses. We want to transform Arizona, and with this bill, you can do that,” Glow said.

Richard Crews, director of programs for the Human Services Campus, testified against allowing municipalities to build structured encampments for the homeless.

“If people have to go to a camp, then we basically bring people together. You can embellish it as you see fit. But when people have no choice, it’s forced migration,” Crews said. “It’s forced displacement, and where you have forced displacement, that’s not something we want to be a part of.”

The Human Services Campus, located at 12th Avenue and Madison Street in Phoenix, is a collaboration of 16 partner organizations with the common outcome of ending homelessness.

The Campus opened a mobile “Sprung Structure” called Respiro, which means respite, on March 25.

Crews said the shelter was created to ensure people had the choice of continuing to live on the streets or living in a shelter.

“This Friday, March 25, we are to open a new shelter at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Jackson Street. This will begin to meet the need. However, there are currently 970 homeless people in the area known as ‘The Zone’,” Crews said. “It will only put a pin in this big problem.”

Residents and businesses agreed that homelessness is a humanitarian crisis facing the city.

“We will always go on and continue to fight for all those affected. And not just seeing things from one side because there are so many different elements that have this chain reaction that are affected,” said Chelsea Friday, a resident who lives in the 36th Street neighborhood and from East Thomas Rd.


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