AARP Arizona Expresses Concerns Regarding a Bill Targeting People Experiencing Homelessness

Posted on 05/05/21 by Dana Marie Kennedy

This is a letter that was sent to the Arizona Legislature expressing our concerns on HB 2668.

Dear Members of the Arizona Legislature,

On behalf of AARP’s more than 900,000 Arizona members, thank you for your continued efforts to make the State of Arizona a better place for people of all ages.

AARP Arizona is not only a fierce defender of those 50 and older, but also serves as a wise friend by providing information that spurs innovation to tackle the problems and challenges we are facing. One such issue is the increasing number of people 50 and older experiencing homelessness.

Despite the best of intentions, in reviewing the strike everything amendment to HB 2668, relating to the limitations on the use of state property for long-term homeless shelters, AARP believes the measure will not effectively address the issue of homelessness and, as a result, may actually have an unintended adverse impact on Arizona seniors.

There is little question that the Greater Phoenix Area is seeing a surge of people experiencing homelessness, and seniors residents making up of roughly one-third of that group. In 2019, the Arizona Department of Housing noted that roughly 70% of seniors who are becoming homeless are doing so for the very first time. Since then, the pandemic has exacerbated situation, ultimately requiring government action to stem the tide of an impending wave of evictions.

HB 2668, as amended, does not address the most pressing underlying issues contributing to Maricopa County’s growing population of people experiencing homelessness, particularly due to the lack of affordable housing across the region. Regrettably, the amended version of HB 2668 would create strict new guidelines that, if not met, would strip funding away from municipal governments, thus further eroding the ability of local governments to proactively prevent people from becoming homeless and help those currently on the street.

Lastly, the segregation of those experiencing homelessness into “structured camping facilities” will expose many elderly to the severe Arizona heat and may result in a greater number of vulnerable seniors becoming victims of abuse and crime.

Accordingly, AARP will continue to work towards solutions to address the growth in homelessness among the aging population. Regrettably, we do not believe that that HB 2668, as amended, addresses the root cause of the issue and may ultimately create unintended consequences that worsen the problem of homelessness and the corresponding public safety challenges that occur in such situations.

Thank you, in advance, for your consideration of AARP’s concerns relating to the strike everything amendment to HB 2668.

I look forward to working with you on this and other matters of mutual interest and concern. Sincerely,

Dana Marie Kennedy, M.S.W. AARP Arizona State Director

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