Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller questioned and then voted against a proposal that will use $1.5 million of General Fund monies annually for a homeless pilot project for previously incarcerated adults, during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisors Elias, Valadez, Bronson, and Christy voted in favor of what, according to Miller, “appears to be a social experiment.”
“Eligible program participants would have been individuals who are considered homeless, have been in jail more than twice in one year, qualify for Medicaid, and are diagnosed with behavioral health or mental health illnesses. The feasibility study estimated the 5-year, 150-participant project at $12 million,” according to a memo from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
“A Pima County stakeholder Steering Committee, which was formed to guide the feasibility phase, consisted of executive level participants from both Pima County and the City of Tucson,” continued Huckelberry in his memo. “In December 2017, the Steering Committee unanimously recommended to develop a self-funded, 2-year pilot project instead of pursuing PFS options. Pima County Administration committed $1.5 million annually and the City of Tucson committed 150 Housing Choice Vouchers to the pilot project.”
The Board was not asked to approve the project prior to Huckleberry’s commitment.
According to a statement released by Miller’s office, the program provides housing for persons who:
• Have been booked into the Pima County Adult Detention Complex (PCADC), 2 + times in the previous 12 months
• Have a substance use or mental health condition
• Are currently experiencing homelessness
The program has few disqualifiers, “which are absolute grounds for denial of assistance for which HCD cannot consider circumstances:
• Production of methamphetamines on federally subsidized property
• Subject to a lifetime sex offender registration
• Households where 100% of the members do not have eligible immigration status (in other words, a group with 99.5% of its members lacking “eligible immigration” status could qualify for the program)
“This project, as proposed by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, essentially involves robbing Peter to pay Paul, who might have stolen from Peter in the first place. President Trump has raised tremendous awareness of the injustices in our criminal justice system and the need for reform, which includes helping those recently released from prison. I support those efforts.”
“However, I cannot support an experimental program, which uses our taxpayer money, to house those recently released from jail when grant money must be available for programs like this. I can’t understand, and received no reasonable explanation from the County Administrator, as to why we did not seek grant funding for this experiment. As a representative of residents in the 5th poorest metropolitan area in the nation, I believe it is unconscionable to use General Fund monies for law breakers’ housing when our law-abiding taxpayers are doing without even basic services, like safe roads.”