Travel anywhere in Phoenix and you will see firsthand the scale of the poverty and homelessness crisis.
My team has been working with ASU researchers, local non-profits and churches, private sober living facilities, former city staffers, social workers, uniformed officers, and addiction counselors to develop an adaptive and sustainable plan to address this issue.
Our plan can be boiled down to these 5 points:
1. Treat people with dignity, respect, and humanity. Being poor and homeless is not a crime and continuing to use some other pretense to arrest someone in hopes of forcing them into social services will not work.
2. Dispatch social workers, backed up by reserve officers, to non-critical calls relating to mental health and homelessness issues. Our uniformed officers have their hands full responding to critical calls for service. We already have a network of qualified social workers that have the experience needed to navigate people through local support services.
3. Create space at the table for ALL of the local non-profits. What the city has failed to realize, in mandating its "one size fits all' C.A.R.E.S. program, is that there is no single solution. Creating public policy based solely on the perceptions of a handful of politically connected organizations has not worked. We need to hear from everyone engaged locally with this issue. Every non-profit, that has a unique perspective and wants to be part of the process, will be included in all policy discussions.
4. Expedite variance and permit requests for non-profits. The process of getting city approval for new non-profit transitional and crisis housing, sober living and addiction treatment facilities, and support centers can take years. By the time the doors are finally allowed to open the needs of the community may have shifted. Expediting variances, permits, and other requests will allow local non-profits to quickly adapt to the changing needs of the community.
5. Assist effective non-profits in fundraising through private donations. Some politicians think creating new tax payer funded programs would be easier and faster. The truth is that publicly funded programs that can be held hostage by political priorities and the city's budget constraints is not a sustainable solution. As mayor, I will advocate and assist in fundraising for non-profits that are helping us support the underserved citizens of Phoenix.
We can never completely eradicate poverty and homelessness. Continuing to cling to the false hope and rhetoric of perfection will keep us from making meaningful improvements.