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State backs off Scottsdale plans to house Zone homeless and migrants in hotel

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(The Center Square) – The Arizona Department of Housing has confirmed they won’t participate in a plan to house former residents of a large homeless encampment and illegal foreign nationals in Scottsdale hotel rooms.

The retreat came to light Wednesday in an announcement from state Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, who called into question the legality of the contract between the state and the city.

“This is a victory for the safety and well-being of Scottsdale’s residents, many who staunchly oppose their tax dollars being spent to house homeless from other cities and foreign nationals who should have been deported under Title 42,” Gress said in a news release. “I maintain serious concerns regarding the city’s intentions to utilize area hotels for this purpose and intend to pursue this matter further.”

Gress added that he plans to hold a hearing delving into the trend of converting hotels into housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Gress wrote to the department on Aug. 4 expressing his concern about the city’s intent to use a $940,000 grant from the state to rent up to 15 hotel rooms out to migrants and former residents of the now-cleared “Zone” encampment in downtown Phoenix. He said neither the city nor the state should be compelled to handle what should be the responsibility of the federal government.

“To be clear, if the federal government is failing to meet its legal obligations, financial responsibilities, or commitment to house migrants who enter at the border, those burdens do not fall on Arizona’s taxpayers,” Gress wrote to the department on Aug. 4.

Department of Housing Director Joan Serviss responded to Gress on Aug. 18, saying the state wouldn’t require the city to use the grant money in that manner.

“While we stand by the validity of the Contract, we have confirmed with the City that the shelter beds and services provided pursuant to the Contract have not and will not serve those individuals impacted by the Zone and Title 42,” she wrote.

A similar issue arose in Scottsdale in 2021 when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed city officials of an agreement to house migrants awaiting asylum hearings in a shuttered hotel located near a public school, a senior living home and dozens of residences.

Gress sponsored legislation vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs in April that, if enacted, would have prohibited the state Department of Housing from compelling hotels to accept homeless people using housing vouchers. Hobbs said the bill would have prohibited something that’s never been an issue in Arizona. Hotels in Los Angeles, however, were required to do so in 2022 under a measure adopted by the City Council.

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