By Scottsdale Pinetop
For many visitors and residents, Scottsdale appears to be the epicenter of affluence with million-dollar homes, luxurious apartments and five-star resorts and golf courses. Yet, few acknowledge that in the past few years Scottsdale has experienced a rise in homelessness. It is a concern that we cannot ignore. But like so many social issues, there are no easy and fast solutions.
Where are they coming from? For years, both Phoenix and Tempe have been cracking down on its current homelessness predicament. Tempe, which already has ordinances banning aggressive panhandling “urban camping” and other behaviors typically associated with homelessness.
In fact, last October the city of Tempe voted to spend $250,000 to place private patrol guards in all its parks to deal with trash, disorderly conduct and unauthorized camping. Pushing more and more homeless residents out of Tempe, people are moving into areas where laws are less strict – notably Scottsdale. In short, the homeless are moving north out of Tempe, up the Indian Bend Wash and posing new challenges for southern Scottsdale neighborhoods.
While being homeless is not a crime, there are laws and ordinances that impact those who are experiencing homelessness. For instance, Scottsdale city parks are closed to visitors from 10:30pm until sunrise including the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Civic Center Mall. This forces many homeless people to seek residence under bridges, bus stations and most frequently along the Indian Bend Wash that are less enforced.
However, this might not be the case for very long. In early January, the city began its community outreach and input to address the Greenbelt’s aging infrastructure and develop a master plan for future park improvements including Vista del Camino and Eldorado Parks. If Scottsdale cracks down in these areas, where might they go?
Some city residents may recall there exists a several acre parcel of city-land near Main Street that once was the site of the city’s transit station. Today it is home to tumbleweeds, empty lots and little else. Looking to replace the now abandoned transit station, Museum Square would include a new high-end hotel, a well-designed residential component and large open space to host public events. But without the development of Museum Square, the city-owned land could become the next available space for those whose who are homeless. There are other public properties too that could be areas for those suffering from homelessness and despair.
The reasons people fall into homelessness are as varied and unique as the people themselves, stemming from a number of factors. There do exist a number of exceptional organizations that provide resources for the homeless, like Vista del Camino Community Center and Central Arizona Shelter Services. We are tremendously grateful for their services. But this is a larger issue that needs to be further addressed by Scottsdale city leaders – not pushed to side. The sooner the better.