Guest Editorial: Phoenix’s Recently Approved Homeless Shelter is an Appropriate Remedy for Phoenix’s Homelessness Crisis, but Should Never Inform Scottsdale’s Approach to Homelessness

By Mason Gates

The Phoenix City Council recently approved the construction of a new homeless shelter near 71st Avenue and Buckeye Road, a key step in the Council’s efforts to address the crisis of homelessness wreaking havoc across the city.

The approval of this shelter project will help stem the burgeoning homeless population in Phoenix, while ensuring that cities bordering Phoenix will not be burdened with the need to provide shelter and services for homeless Phoenix residents.

In particular, the additional bed space in Phoenix will reduce the purported need to repurpose hotel space in Scottsdale to house homeless residents, as fewer former “Zone” residents will need to relocate away from Phoenix to seek shelter and services. I am glad to see Phoenix pulling more of its weight on the homeless issue.

Even though Scottsdale Mayor Dave Ortega and multiple City Council members voted last year to authorize the provision of hotel space in Scottsdale to house homeless Phoenix residents, Scottsdale taxpayers should never be forced to pay for the provision of beds and services for individuals who do not reside in Scottsdale.

While I applaud the Phoenix City Council’s efforts to shelter its own homeless population, local public officials will need to maintain constant vigilance around the shelter site to ensure it never resembles the infamous “Zone” neighborhood. Residents who own property near the new shelter site do not deserve to see their property values crater simply because the city plants an unwanted homeless shelter in the middle of their neighborhood.

Given the possibility that this new homeless shelter torpedoes property values in the neighboring community, I advocate Phoenix residents to vote yes this November on HCR 2023, a proposed ballot measure that will allow property owners to apply for a property tax refund if a city negligently declines to enforce existing laws against public vagrancy.

Even as homeless shelters like the Windemere in Mesa have descended into places filled with drug abuse, violence, and other civic maladies, this new shelter site cannot be allowed to go down the same path. Sobriety must be enforced and residents must be put on the pathway to securing jobs or placed into job training programs. Treatment and housing must be paired together.

My support of Phoenix’ homeless shelter project should not be construed to suggest I would ever support the construction of a similar project in Scottsdale. Hardworking Scottsdale property owners should never be forced to watch their property values fall as a result of the construction of homeless housing within city boundaries.

“Don’t Phoenix my Scottsdale” is not just a bumper sticker slogan, but a real policy guideline that I intend to follow when seated on the Scottsdale City Council.

The recent decision by Phoenix city leaders to build a new homeless shelter is an appropriate measure that addresses Phoenix’ needs and relieves burdens on Scottsdale; however it is not a model that Scottsdale should ever follow.