Residents scrutinized the City of Scottsdale homeless plan to convert hotel rooms into housing for the unhoused during a community hearing Wednesday at the Civic Center Library. Many called for more transparency and implementation of safeguards.

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State GOP Reps. Matt Gress of Phoenix and Quang Nguyen of Prescott Valley, and Democratic Rep. Judy Schwiebert of Phoenix, along with a panel of witnesses, talked with residents and voiced their own opinions on the city’s plan to use local hotel rooms as homeless shelters at an Appropriations Subcommittee on Budgetary Funding Formulas meeting.

On June 27, the Scottsdale City Council voted 6-1 to adopt a resolution that would see the city receive a $940,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Housing. The grant will be used to expand a bridge housing program by using hotel rooms to house individuals experiencing homelessness. Councilmember Barry Graham was the sole dissenting vote.

The grant is broken down into $500,000 for room rentals, $400,000 for supportive services and $40,000 for nutrition and essential needs. Greg Bestgen, Scottsdale human services director, has said in earlier meetings the city would rent 10 rooms from an undisclosed hotel, and that the program focuses on housing for Scottsdale residents.

Scottsdale residents listen in on a community hearing at Civic Center Library in Scottsdale on Sept. 13, 2023. Residents questioned the city’s plan to convert hotel rooms into shelter for the unhoused. (Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News)

Gress said at the Wednesday hearing he didn’t want “disastrous policies” similar to what other cities have implemented to “seep its way into our community.”

Nguyen added: “We’re potentially placing convicted felons and sex offenders in hotel rooms next to unsuspecting families on vacation. In my opinion, that’s a huge problem.”

Schwiebert disagreed with her Republican colleagues.

“No one with a full-time job should have to live in their car or on the street,” Schwiebert said. “So rather than questioning cities like Scottsdale for a program that has an 84% success rate of safely rehousing families and seniors, the willing partnership of a local hotel and zero complaints to police, I believe we should be celebrating their life-changing work.” At the June meeting, Bestgen quoted an over 80% success rate of getting people in the program into permanent housing.

Some residents expressed concern about the Scottsdale homeless program.

“I strongly recommend that you verify sobriety with every single person that is in this program,” Scottsdale resident Jeff Taylor said.

Others expressed support.

“We have workers, we have programs that are in position to help them, to follow up with them, to give them solutions,” Luticia Taylor said. Taylor is a Scottsdale resident and founder of Healing Hearts Foundation, which has helped people who are unhoused. “We have a solution, we just need to be heard.”