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Democrat State Legislator calls "housing first" model a "disaster".

Catherine Mirada, a newly elected Democrat state legislator (previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives, representing District 27 from 2011 to 2015) penned a piece in the AZ Republic. She talks about the housing first model, that is espoused by such luminaries (my word, sarcastically) like Romero, Kozachik, Conover and Doogie Heinzer has pretty much been a disaster in the Phoenix area. Check it out below.

Housing First' failed the homeless in Phoenix. Here are 3 ways to do better

Opinion: Phoenix wants to give the homeless permanent homes without addressing the root causes of their homelessness. No wonder it's been a disaster.

Catherine Miranda


Homelessness in Phoenix is an unparalleled disaster.

The number of homeless individuals living on the streets has tripled since 2016, even while the number in shelters has dropped. In 2020, more than 500 homeless people died on the streets. This year, the city’s homelessness death toll is on track to exceed 1,000. Most of those deaths are caused by drug overdoses.

Despite this human tragedy, many of Phoenix’s elected leaders want to continue down our current, failed path. Their only “solution” is to give free, permanent homes for everyone sleeping outside. And while we wait years or decades for these thousands of homes to be built, they want to keep allowing our most vulnerable neighbors, who are struggling with drug addiction and severe mental illness, to live and die on our streets.

Phoenix must take a different path, and it must do so now. Waiting just one more year will multiply the harm to the homeless and our communities. We have no choice but to change course now by emphasizing humane enforcement, rapid shelter and necessary treatment.

Step 1: Enforce laws against street camping

First, the state must ensure Phoenix enforces its existing laws against street sleeping and camping. In Texas, Missouri and elsewhere, state legislatures have passed bipartisan laws requiring cities to take action. While supporters of the failed status quo claim this “criminalizes” homeless, the cities that enforce such laws see reductions in homeless deaths, and little or no actual arrests.

Local opponents also claim that enforcement is impossible because a federal court ruling, City of Boise v. Martin, requires cities to offer beds to anyone removed from public space. But it is easy and affordable for Phoenix to provide the necessary room for the unsheltered.

Several cities, from Austin, Texas, to Oakland, Calif., have created “sanctioned encampments” in as little as a few weeks. These areas for the homeless to set up their tents can provide services, shelter, sanitation and, most importantly, security. Closer supervision and connection to nonprofits prevents those living on the streets from endangering themselves and others.

Step 2: Offer more short-term housing

Second, Phoenix and the state need to change their focus from free or subsidized permanent housing, known as the “Housing First” philosophy, to creating the necessary shelter space.

Arizona has already created 7,000 new permanent homes for the homeless since 2010, but this has obviously not solved our problems. In the same period, we have taken thousands of short-term and shelter beds out of commission.

The city should create more short-term and shelter beds, including through tiny home communities, that can be constructed much cheaper and quicker than permanent housing.

Step 3: Treat mental health, addiction first

Third, the state and the city should refocus on a “Treatment First” philosophy. While the failed “Housing First” model does not require treatment for drug addiction or mental health problems, programs like recovery housing tie housing to sobriety or mental health checkups.

This approach helps people move off the streets. It helps them get clean and prepare for a new life. The city and state should ensure government funds go to nonprofits that are successfully treating the mental health and addiction root causes of homelessness.

Those who argue that Phoenix should continue its current homeless strategy are out of touch with reality. I challenge anyone who disagrees to take a walk with me through my district.

Local failures created this deadly disaster, and we need to change direction now before we have to deal with even more death and misery on our streets.

Even if the city government won’t act, I promise to work on comprehensive solutions to this humanitarian crisis with anyone − regardless of political party − in the Arizona Legislature.

Catherine H. Miranda (Democratic Party) is a member-elect of the Arizona State Senate, representing District 11. She assumes office on January 9, 2023.

Miranda (Democratic Party) ran for election to the Arizona State Senate to represent District 11. She won in the general election on November 8, 2022.

Miranda was a Democratic candidate for Arizona's 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House. Miranda lost the primary on August 28, 2018.

Miranda previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives, representing District 27 from 2011 to 2015

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