Tempe leaders talk about homeless housing

Posted at 10:05 PM, May 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-08 13:27:27-04

A ban on sitting along the sidewalk of a major road takes effect next week. The ordinance would mean no sitting or sleeping on sidewalks along Mill Avenue.

Council members adopted the ordinance after complaints from dozens of businesses along the busy street who said the presence of homeless people was driving customers away.

The city has faced some criticism from homeless advocates in the community after the move. Some felt the city was pushing the homeless off the sidewalks, but not doing anything to help them. There are no permanent shelters to house the homeless in Tempe.

RELATED: Protesters urge repeal of Mill Ave. sidewalk ban

Residents also sent ABC15 pictures of tent cities sprouting up in Tempe. Several of them located along the canal, in the thick brush at Papago Park. 

City officials say despite the lack of shelters, there is still a place for the homeless to go seven nights a week, with churches rotating as shelters. The issue has sparked a renewed interest among council members to do more to help the homeless, and now some are interested in pumping more money toward direct outreach, and permanent housing.

Tempe Vice Mayor Corey Woods supported the discussion, saying there was a record need right now, not just in Tempe but across the Valley.

“You’re not just going to put someone in a shelter for the evening, the notion is that you get them off the street and stabilize the situation by getting out of that precarious situation, then you wrap the services around them,” said Woods.

City officials said Tempe had always been at the forefront when it comes to helping the homeless. Of the $1.3 million dollar human services budget, $113,000 went toward direct outreach.

Councilwoman Lauren Kuby supports putting more funds toward those efforts.

“We find the needs increasing, so it’s really time to step it up and do more," she said.

She added that they could never do enough, as each homeless person had a different story, and different needs.

The city is also seeing an increase in the number of “working poor” who needed food boxes.

Kuby said a discussion to create more affordable housing and convert old apartment buildings into housing for the homeless was in the works. 

City officials hoped to involve the community in these talks.

“We recognize that while giving someone a bed for the evening solves the problem for Tuesday or Wednesday night, it does not take care of the long term needs.  We do want the community to be involved in these discussions, we welcome the input,” said Woods.

He added that he hoped to put together a homeless town hall in the future.