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Scottsdale City Hall diplomacy belays local concerns at makeshift homeless, migrant shelter

The Arizona Department of Housing is awarding the city of Scottsdale $940,000 from the state of Arizona’s newly created Homeless Shelter and Services Fund, which is meant to continue an existing program. (File Photos/
Scottsdale councilman encourages better, effective community communications
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

A week ago today a letter from a concerned parent and headmaster at Cicero Preparatory Academy, which is found along Pima Road in Scottsdale, hit the inbox of members of City Council at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

“I am writing as a concerned parent and the school principal of the public school adjacent to the Independence Hotel. I am concerned that the city of Scottsdale has contracted a hotel less than one block from our K-12 school to house displaced homeless and migrants,” said Christa Reichert, who serves as headmaster at Cicero Preparatory Academy, 7205 N. Pima Road.

“Independence Hotel was also one of our safe zones for if we needed to scatter in the event of an active shooter. We would not be able to scatter to the west if the need would arise because there is a huge block wall along Pima Road except for the Independence Hotel.”

Ms. Reichert, in her letter, explained to elected leaders the Salt River Police Department have been able to belay initial concerns.

“We have worked steadily with the SRP PD to keep our school campus clear of the migrant and transient population,” she said. “They have been great partners to us and I am disappointed that the City of Scottsdale would jeopardize the quality of living and sense of security of families who already live in the neighborhood and the security many families who make use of the Great Wolf Lodge or Salt River Fields for their events.”

The Arizona Department of Housing is awarding the city of Scottsdale $940,000 from the state of Arizona’s newly created Homeless Shelter and Services Fund, which is meant to continue an existing program helping people in need by offering emergency shelter at a Scottsdale hotel.

In addition to providing emergency shelter, Scottsdale city officials say, state funds fuel assistance from social services caseworkers and nutrition/essential needs support.

For more than a year, Scottsdale has operated a bridge housing program that provides temporary shelter combined with services and support.

The effort, which has been ongoing for a year, city official say, is among the programs and services offered by the Scottsdale Human Services Department that have resulted in a 44% decrease year-over-year of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

photo of Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham
Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham earlier this summer at City Hall. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Scottsdale councilman encourages better, effective community communications

Scottsdale City Councilman Barry Graham says anytime a local educator is concerned for the safety of students it matters.

“Yes, if the schoolmaster feels a nearby facility is no longer safe for students to take refuge during an emergency, that’s concerning,” he told the Arizona Digital Free Press. “City Council only recently authorized the program, which begins in August 2023. My hope is that there won’t be any problems. Those who have defended accepting the $1 million grant point to other programs’ success rate, but city staff haven’t explained how that rate of success was calculated.”

Councilman Graham spoke with Ms. Reichert on the matter.

“I thanked Headmaster Reichert for her feedback, which was shared with city staff. My hope is that city staff can coordinate with her and others to ease concerns,” he said. “Much of the controversy could have been avoided if the city had conducted vigorous community outreach to notify neighbors—including businesses and schools. This program is unlike past bridge programs because of a change in funding source and expansion of populations served and service-types. It’s a reminder of the importance of outreach and keeping residents informed.”

The Arizona Digital Free Press was able to confirm with Ms. Reichert her concerns have been addressed by the city of Scottsdale.

“I have had great engagement and responses from the city council and human resources,” she said Thursday, July 20, in a emailed response to questions. “They shared specifics of the program that resolved any of my concerns and I am very happy with the outcome.”

With recent headlines surrounding what Phoenix locals call ‘The Zone’ and ongoing struggles with affordable housing across the metropolitan area, Councilman Graham offers local residents are paying attention.

“Everyone knows about problems at ‘The Zone’ in downtown Phoenix and at the U.S./Mexico border,” he said. “The Department of Housing is awarding grants to cities and towns who will temporarily shelter some of those individuals. However, Scottsdale residents are concerned about ‘strings attached’ to the grant money because the contract lacks important safeguards for Scottsdale. Residents are also concerned that the city isn’t doing background checks, instead trusting other agencies to screen participants.”

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