Use COVID-19 funds for sanctioned homeless ‘tent cities’

Arizona cities could use federal COVID-19 relief funds to establish sanctioned homeless camping areas under a new bill making its way through the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 1581 would make $ 50 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds available to cities or counties to set up sanctioned homeless encampment areas and homeless outreach teams.

The encampments would have to offer sanitary facilities, potable water, security and provide mental health, case management and other services to people staying in the camps.

Under the proposal, jurisdictions that choose to set up sanctioned encampments would be required to enforce laws banning street camping anywhere outside of the sanctioned areas.

Critics of the bill said the federal funds would be better spent on permanent housing solutions and would unfairly criminalize people experiencing homelessness who do not want to stay in a sanctioned camp.

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