Arizona is marching toward a strict new approach to manage drug use among its homeless population as State Rep. Matt Gress introduced a bill Tuesday aimed to create drug-free zones around service providers. In what's billed as the Arizona Homeless Protection and Drug Control Act, or HB 2782, the bill outlines a series of measures including tougher penalties for drug dealers operating within these zones and accountability for facilities that permit on-site drug use.
In a move to more tightly control the state's response to homelessness and associated drug issues, the legislation also proposes a $75 million permanent Homeless Shelter and Services Fund. This is alongside adjustments to funding that will look to closely tie support services' cash flow to their performance milestones. According to ABC 15, one key objective of the proposed legislation is to provide better data collection on the health and demographics of Arizona's homeless to inform future policies.
The bill's impact would extend to how cities in Arizona have to previously combat homelessness, as a ban on using state funds to rent hotel rooms for the homeless is included, a response to community opposition in cities like Scottsdale and Mesa just last year. "We will ban that practice moving forward," Rep. Gress told KTAR News. "And also require they do have to give disclosure to the general public." However, federal and private funds could still be utilized for room rentals, and non-profits or cities can purchase hotels as permanent shelters.
This set of reforms is expected to foster a unified state approach to homelessness, anchored in shared data and transparent reporting on outcomes. "People are falling through the cracks," said Gress to KTAR News. The intended bill will be reviewed by a committee in the upcoming weeks, with Gress expressing optimism about bipartisan support due to the pressing need for action in the state.