State lawmaker wants to change Arizona law related to drug use and homelessness

Feb 12, 2024, 4:25 AM

Drug-free zones focus of new bill Republican lawmaker pushes...

Arizona state Rep. Matt Gress introduced a bill that would create drug-free zones within areas around service providers. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona state Rep. Matt Gress on Tuesday introduced a bill that would amend current law to create drug-free zones within areas around service providers.

The Arizona Homeless Protection and Drug Control Act, or HB 2782, would make several key changes to Arizona law and policies surrounding homeless solutions.

The act, in its current form, would:

  1. Create harsher penalties for drug dealers who deal in drug-free service zones.
  2. Make facilities that have policies that allow on-campus drug liable for charges.
  3. Create a $75 million dollar permanent Homeless Shelter and Services Fund.
  4. Adjust funding to homeless service providers based on performance thresholds.
  5. Emphasize the need and importance of collecting accurate health and demographic data on the state’s homeless population.
  6. Ban the use of state funds to rent out rooms from hotels to provide shelter to unhoused people.

“This legislation is designed to provide accountability in how we help those who are experiencing homelessness,” Gress said.

What else would the bill on drug-free zones do?

The bill would also call for increased information sharing on how cities spend public money to combat homelessness.

The ban on renting hotel rooms for shelter use also came after the cities of Scottsdale and Mesa faced community pushback for trying that approach last year.

Rep. Gress said it’s an ineffective strategy.

“We will ban that practice moving forward,” he said. “And also require they do have to give disclosure to the general public.”

Under the proposed bill, federal and private funds could still be used to rent rooms. It does allow non-profits or cities to outright purchase entire hotels to use as shelters, such as with Central Arizona Shelter Services’ Project Haven in Phoenix.

Ultimately the bill is designed to create a statewide view on homelessness informed by shared data collection and reporting of outcomes.

“People are falling through the cracks,” Gress said. “When relapses occur, there is no way to pick up the pieces as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re trying to solve here.”

It’s set to be heard by a committee within the next few weeks. Rep. Gress is hopeful the proposed law will see support from Republicans and Democrats.

“There is a major desire and there is a major need,” he said.

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State lawmaker wants to change Arizona law related to drug use and homelessness