Arizona bill would ban state, local dollars from being used in homeless hotel programs

A Republican Party bill moving through the Arizona House of Representatives would outlaw homeless hotel programs in Mesa and Scottsdale, among other provisions.

State Representative Matt Gress, who represents the state's 4th Legislative District, proposed HB2782 to address complaints from constituents.

"HB2782 addresses what is a public safety crisis as well as a humanitarian crisis, when it comes to homelessness," said State Rep. Gress.

State Rep. Gress says HB2782 would ban the practice of using state or local dollars on mixed hoteling, where hotels are open to the general public and also serving as a homeless shelter.

"Renting out rooms doesn't really get to the to the heart of the matter in getting services, help and structure to people who are living on the streets," said State Rep. Gress.

Ian Linssen, who is the assistant to the Mesa City Manager, disagrees with some of the provisions.

Currently, the city rents out hotel room to those in a program called ‘Off the Streets.’ Linssen says the city would like to continue this program.

"We've helped, since the program began, 1,600 people who've moved positively out of the program," said Linssen.

As mentioned above, state and local dollars would not be allowed to be used for mixed hoteling. Only federal dollars would be allowed for such programs.

"It is difficult, as you may imagine, to access and use federal dollars," said Linssen. "There's a lot of strings attached with those, and it's a longer term process to get access to that, so we would be very limited in our options there."

It's a topic that has gotten the community involved.

5 "[We] also have the general public who show up, realize that it's also being used as a homeless shelter and want to go somewhere else, and they couldn't even get a refund of their dollars," said State Rep. Gress. "This legislation would entitle those patrons to get a refund, and if they want to relocate."

According to State Rep. Gress, they are still taking input from cities and businesses. This bill goes to the House floor next week before it is sent to the State Senate.