Flagstaff residents turned up beforehand to protest in front of city hall and then spoke during the public comments of the City Council's work session to demand that council members adopt the Keep Families Free and Together ordinance.
Repeal Coalition member Ale Becerra implored the council to block local law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She did this despite knowing they were being advised not to get involved with the ordinance as she learned in a recent meeting with the police chief and the city attorneys.
"We had a very clear conversation as to what everyone's position was, especially in regards to this ordinance," Becerra said. "The city attorneys were very clear that they were afraid of the city facing litigation."
She urged the council to go talk to their staff and the police again and to keep listening to community members. City Council will be discussing the ordinance again in an executive session April 16. Following public comments, the council returned to the regular agenda.
Housing and Grant Manager Leah Bloom said the city is reallocating federal funding for affordable housing. In 2018 the Community Development Block Grant helped over 5,600 low-income Flagstaff residents with infrastructure improvements to neighborhoods and parks as well as money towards the Front Door program, which helps homeless find employment and a place to live. However, Bloom said the programs still need more funding.
"We are going to talk about how much money we have, and the answer is not nearly enough," Bloom said. "Because Congress has not released exact numbers from the 2019 budget, the housing section received guidance for HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] for the dollars to reflect last year's allocation."
Due to this, the estimated budget allocation for programs this year is $620,000, and though it's not as much as local agencies were requesting they still have plans for the money, according to Bloom's presentation. Some of it will go to helping the homeless find employment as Flagstaff Shelter Services is set to get $60,000 to facilitate employment navigation services for the homeless as well as bus passes to help them get to and from work.
The city is aiming to provide more funding to aid with affordable housing, including projects expanding the Sharon Manor, a part of Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona that helps find transitional housing for victims of domestic violence.
"The project would add five additional units of transitional housing to the Sharon Manor home," Bloom said. "The home currently has eight studio apartments with a common living and kitchen space."
The city will give them $260,000 and the Flagstaff Family Food Center will receive $25,000 to aid with kitchen repairs and other upgrades. The city is also continuing to fund interest-free loans for the Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation program, which offers loans for those in need of expensive home repairs but can't afford them.
Mayor Coral Evans also commented on the importance of not only helping the homeless find work but also affordable housing as well.
"I think all of the programs are valuable, I'll be very clear about that," Evans said. "But I do think the sooner you can get people housed the less likely they are to stay permanently homeless."
The council also unanimously voted to move forward with the creation of the Affordable Housing Commission.