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Scottsdale mayor gets pushback on program to shelter homeless residents

The mayor of Scottsdale says a homeless program that was the subject of a field hearing on Wednesday serves city residents.

Public money to help pay for a handful of hotel rooms to keep people off the street had drawn attention from a Republican state lawmaker who represents much of the city.

State Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix) led the hearing. After talking with city officials about the program, Gress said he worries about participant vetting and outcome tracking. He sought a commitment that Scottsdale would not take in migrants or people from the infamous homeless encampment in Phoenix called “The Zone.”

“I will not allow the disastrous policies of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and even Phoenix (to) seep its way into our community,” Gress said.

Mayor David Ortega said that since 2019, Scottsdale officials have seen a constant stream of locals facing eviction. He called the homeless program in question a quiet intervention with a 70% success rate that was previously not paid for with state money.

“We have our hands full with literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Scottsdale residents,” said Ortega.

The program focuses on using the hotel rooms to keep Scottsdale veterans, single-parent families and children off the street. Ortega told critics the program has a waiting list to get in and providing shelter is only part of the effort. 

“The other half works with our social programs. That’s where we try to redirect because people are looking for jobs. They may have been laid off. And they may have lost their house,” said Ortega.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.