Arizona Homelessness spending near $1 billion, mostly on housing

(The Center Square) – A new report from the Common Sense Institute of Arizona determines that spending on homelessness in the Grand Canyon State is roughly $1 billion.

The think tank analyzed data from both the public and private sectors to see how much was going toward the issue, and the vast majority of the spending, $678-807 million, was directed toward Maricopa County in recent years. 

In addition, the report pointed out that “point-in-time” homeless counts have been increasing since 2017, but the number of shelter beds has not kept up with the rise, whereas “permanent supportive housing” appears to be the bigger focus.

“We can’t dispassionately prove this based on research we’ve done today, but it does correlate well with sort of the opioid epidemic,” CSI Arizona’s Director of Policy and Research Glenn Farley, said at a media briefing on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, the report says that the number of homeless people who are unsheltered has tripled since 2014, meaning that they are definitely on the streets as opposed to living temporarily in a government or nonprofit facility. 

In terms of nonprofit spending via IRS documents and other estimating factors, most spending from nonprofits is directed toward housing and shelter, as well as food and clothing, but help for substance abuse is a much smaller figure generally. 

State Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, referred to the report as a “bombshell” and affirmed the notion that there’s a greater emphasis on housing rather than rehabilitation for individuals facing addiction with current spending priorities. 

“This is the big disconnect with our providers and the reality that’s happening on the ground. This is a classic example of housing first. It doesn’t work. Homelessness is getting worse and most of the people living on the streets are living there because of addiction or mental illness,” he said on Wednesday.

Gress is the sponsor of House Bill 2782, which would create legal penalties for “sell or transfer dangerous drugs or narcotic drugs” in areas where homeless people are supposed to be getting care, The Center Square reported earlier this month. 

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