City of Scottsdale Updates Homeless Ordinance

By Melissa Rosequist | Scottsdale Independent

Changes are coming to Scottsdale’s “camping in public places” ordinance — which applies to unhoused people living on the streets.

Scottsdale will now contract with a local hotel to provide shelter to unhoused people and check to see if space is available at a local shelter, before citing or arresting individuals who are experiencing homelessness under a recent policy change.

On Sept. 20, Scottsdale City Council approved an update to city ordinances regarding camping in public places to make it enforceable following a 2019 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling.

Scottsdale’s law now contains a provision that requires a violator be given a “reasonable opportunity to relocate and confirmation there is available shelter space” before being cited or arrested by police. To achieve this, the city’s Human Services Department will contract with a local hotel to provide 10 rooms for persons experiencing homelessness.

These 10 hotel rooms will be open to any homeless person regardless of their criminal history or other status, according to a city staff report.

The change to the ordinance comes after a 2019 court ruling, Martin v. City of Boise, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held people should not be criminalized merely because they are homeless.

The update includes changes to the ordinance that reduces the penalty of camping in public places from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 3 misdemeanor, and makes it clear this law applies to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

According to the staff report, whenever there is no space at the contracted hotel or any future shelters, the city will not be able to enforce the ordinance, and therefore no citations will be given to people camping in public places.

The ordinance outlines that “camp” means to reside in or use a public park, public street, the preserve or other public place for living accommodations.

To camp in a public park or the preserve, a city-issued permit is required.

Homelessness is a Valley-wide issue all municipalities are addressing in different ways. The 2022 point-in-time count reported on Jan. 24 there were 9,026 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County. Of those, 114 were in Scottsdale. Further, of the 9,026 people in Maricopa County, 56%, or 5,054 of them were unsheltered — on the streets or other place not meant for human habitation.

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