Arizona Representative Barbara Parker (R-10) denounced the Mesa City Council’s “misguided and controversial” plan to purchase the Grand Hotel in East Mesa as a transitional homeless shelter as part of the City’s “Off the Street” program. In a press release dated Sept, 26, 2023, Representative Parker excoriated a tone-deaf City Council for moving forward with the purchase despite overwhelming opposition by residents.
The plan, which narrowly passed on a 4-3 vote in May, would move the current shelter from the Windemere Hotel, where the City leases rooms for approximately 140 homeless residents.
According to the program’s coordinator, Detective Aaron Raine, the program has been a critical resource in helping program participants transition from living on the streets to more permanent housing. He likens it to “the waiting room to get them to (the) next step, which is either self-reliance or transitional housing.” But he also believes moving the program to the new location is crucial.
In an interview with Arizona 12News, Raine expressed concerns about the current location’s security and explained why the new East Mesa Main Street hotel site is necessary. “This (Windemere) is a super hard location to manage because there’s front doors and back doors, right? A completely open property,” Raine said. “That (Grand Hotel) is so much more secure and easy to manage the security at because it’s one point entry, one point exit,” he explained.
Rep. Parker doesn’t believe that Mesa is considering neighboring residents’ wishes. Her release states, “It is abundantly clear that the City Council is adopting misguided policies without considering the well-being and safety of our community. This action mirrors the failed policies of larger cities like Phoenix and Tucson, policies that have only exacerbated the problems they aimed to solve.”
City officials held several community meetings to tout the benefits of the $7.4 million COVID fund acquisition. However, citizen response has been overwhelmingly negative. Many of the nearby residents expressed concerns that the “homeless hotel” would exacerbate already burgeoning crime rates – despite assurances by the City that a “24-hour police presence” would reduce local crime.
Morgan Lichaczewski, who lives near the hotel, says he’s collected pages of signatures opposing the project. According to his interview with 12News, the issue is simple. “I have five children from teenagers all the way down to one in diapers, and their bus stop is right there in front of the hotel.”
The Mesa Tribune reported earlier this summer that “the prevailing sentiment among the approximately 50 people who showed is that neighbors don’t want a homeless shelter in their backyards.”
It’s unclear if the State will get involved in the fight beyond commenting. The Arizona Globe reached out to Rep. Parker for comment.
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