ARIZONA NEWS

Mesa moves forward with converting hotel into temporary homeless shelter

Nov 7, 2023, 10:41 AM

Grand Hotel in Mesa...

The city of Mesa will move forward with converting a former hotel into a temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness.(Google Maps Photo)

(Google Maps Photo)

PHOENIX — The city of Mesa will move forward with converting a former hotel into a temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness.

The City Council voted 4-3 vote during Monday night’s meeting to transform the Grand Hotel near Power Road and Main Street into a shelter for victims of domestic violence, children, seniors, families and veterans.

“This isn’t something new that we’re doing in the city or that we’re going to try. This is something that we already have a really good track record on,” Councilmember Julie Spilsbury said during the meeting.

The good track record Spilsbury was referencing was the Windemere Hotel, the city’s current temporary shelter site located at Recker Road and Main Street, which has a 75% success rate.

What will the homeless shelter in Mesa provide?

In May, the city started executing its $7.4 million purchase contract for the 70-room Grand Hotel.

It’s part of the city’s Off the Streets program, which started in 2020 when Maricopa County rented 12 rooms to provide homeless housing solutions in downtown Mesa.

Walk-up services at the new site will not be offered, as its guests will be taken in and brought out with busses, Mesa Mayor John Giles said at the meeting. There will also be a 24/7 police presence.

“Our goal is to have a really strong, safe program that will actually just help make the neighborhood stronger and uplift it,” Spilsbury said.

“Even though there’s some intense opposition from the nearby neighborhood and from some in Leisure World, I can honestly say that I believe that our city will stick to what we’re saying we’re going to do.”

Leisure World is a retirement community about a half-mile south of the hotel.

How will Mesa transform the hotel into a shelter?

First, the city will update and maintain the main campus, which will include new walls, security cameras, gates, landscaping, a play area and pet area.

Then, it will oversee the onsite program to ensure best practices are being followed and that it is meeting the conditions of being a good neighbor.

Moving forward, the city will be held accountable for the success of the program and it will be up to them to decide to keep it operating or close it down.

What was public reaction to the temporary homeless shelter in Mesa?

Public opinion among approximately two dozen speakers at the council meeting was divided.

Some supporters at the meeting were residents who previously or currently stayed at the Windemere Hotel.

Blanca Diagueros is staying at the Windemere with her family. She said the shelter has helped her get on her feet, as well as connected her family to safe transportation and counseling.

Another person who previously stayed at the Windemere credited the temporary housing for much of his success in making it out of homelessness.

“If I didn’t have a stepping stone to get to where I’m at today by having somewhere to stay and get through that situation, I would still be homeless,” Hans Rae said. “I spent two years homeless and was able to finally get housing and get my life back on track because of it.”

What do opponents of Mesa’s hotel-to-shelter say?

Others believe the city isn’t prepared for all of the hiccups that could come along with temporary housing and that it will just end up causing problems down the road.

“It will be a millstone around your neck and a financial burden and cost to all the taxpayers of Mesa for your not-thought-out management decisions,” local Howard Gimso said. “For good intentions that backfire, this building will be a millstone on the neck of future city councils.”

Giles said the city’s response is more compassionate and financially responsible than the alternative, which would be arrests and citation if homelessness grew out of control in the area.

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Mesa moves forward with converting hotel into temporary homeless shelter