Phoenix talks accountability, blight in addressing homelessness

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - 10:42am
Updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - 1:44pm

As Phoenix commits more money to address homelessness, there’s also a focus on accountability.

The city’s proposed budget includes nine new positions to better manage outreach programs. Deputy City Manager Gina Montes says that includes documenting the performance of outside providers hired by Phoenix.

“They’ll be divided up into the contract management, accountability side, so ensuring the funding that we’re putting in, that we’re actively managing those contracts, including the performance under all those providers and that we’re communicating our priorities on a regular basis,” she said.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Montes said there will also be a position focused on data analysis and evidence-based practices.

Councilman Jim Waring said neighborhoods most impacted by homelessness need more support.

“You get people camped out at your bus stop and the next thing you know things have kind of gone haywire and homeowners, the taxpayers who are funding our operation don’t feel comfortable in their own neighborhood,” he said. “I’m watching it happen as I go around and knock on doors and it’s not acceptable.”

trash outside tents
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Trash outside tents near Ninth Avenue and Jackson Street on Feb. 5, 2020.

In response to business and neighborhood complaints, the proposed budget includes $558,000 for a pilot program to clean up private properties dealing with chronic blight issues. 

Thanks to federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funds, Phoenix has a projected $76 million surplus for 2022-2023.  Based on city council priorities and community feedback, the proposed budget uses $24 million of the surplus for various uses, and $52 million set aside for future spending initiatives, such as employee compensation or to provide resources needed to maintain a balanced budget in the event of an economic downtown. 

A report to the council from City Manager Jeff Barton said, “Phoenix has emerged as an economic leader due to strong job and population growth along with a diversified employment and business sector. However, there is reason to be cautious as we look forward due to the recent war in Europe, unknowns about the direction of the pandemic, and rising inflation all of which are causing additional economic uncertainty.”

The council will formally vote on the city budget in June and it will take effect July 1.

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