[Hpn] Homeless staying put; Arizona Daily Sun; Flagstaff, Arizona; 7/23/02

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Wed, 24 Jul 2002 10:26:10 -0400

-------Forwarded article-------

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Arizona Daily Sun <http://www.azdailysun.com>
[Flagstaff <http://www.flagstaff.az.us>, Arizona]
News Headlines section
Homeless staying put

Sun Staff Reporter

Less than a half dozen homeless people who have participated in the housing 
program at a local motel have returned to the woods since the forest's 
reopening Saturday, officials said Monday.

And, 17 days into the county's temporary program to house the homeless at 
the Royal Inn, more than half of the people have found steady work and some 
even a permanent place to live.

Jerry Rodriguez, project coordinator with county's Community Service 
Department, knows the county's homeless as well as anybody.

The big, burly man with long hair tied back in a neat ponytail and a graying 
goatee spends a 12-hour graveyard shift checking in the county's homeless 
into the small motel on East Route 66, maintaining security, and keeping 
people on task toward their goal: getting a job, getting a place, moving on.

They've had a few problems, Rodriguez said. Some drink heavily all day and 
then come to the motel at 7 p.m. to check in.

"They don't think of progressing," he said. Those folks weed themselves out 
with time or are told to leave.

But not everybody is like that, he said.

The majority work day labor, as plumbers, in construction, as waiters or 

Rodriguez worked at the Salvation Army's temporary homeless camp earlier 
this summer. When the forests closed, the Salvation Army opened up its 
1,500-square foot back lot for folks. But that temporary camp closed July 2 
because of inadequate funding and staffing.

Four or five people have returned to the forest, where they play tag with 
the system, staying at one campsite for two or three days, then moving on, 
Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez sees the ones who want something more. He said he sees it in their 

"From day one, you could see they were determined; they had a goal. Living 
here, it can be frustrating for everybody," he said. "Each mind is a world."

A religious man, Rodriguez doesn't consider himself a preacher. His job is 
with the county, not a faith-based organization. He attends bible school and 
is a Christian, but it was something else that made him run a men's home for 
drug addicts and alcoholics in Phoenix, something else that makes him spend 
12 hour night shifts with the city's homeless, checking people in and 
calming tempers at 2 in the morning.

"Sometimes, you can see their smile, on the ones who get to move in, get a 
job. They respect each other," he said.

Rodriguez estimates 500 people have come through the Royal Inn since the 
program started. That doesn't count the ones turned away for lack of room 
and given vouchers to go to other motels.

"This is for everybody," he said.

The county's contract with Royal Inn is designed to run through Sept. 30, 
the end of fire season.

Miquelle Scheier, senior manager for Coconino County Community Services, 
said the agency is working with each person and family to have a plan.

"We've moved 8 to 10 people who have permanent jobs to permanent housing 
already," she said.

George Bradley, resident manager at the Royal Inn, said the county's deal to 
house the homeless here for 85 days is going well and even better than he 

"I think they're appreciative of a place to stay," he said of the homeless 
using the program. He doesn't always see the same people twice. "It's not 
always the same. Sometimes, they move on, some of them get jobs."

Royal Inn agreed to house the homeless July 5 for 85 days at a cost of 
$23.53 per room for 11 rooms. The total price tag will be $21,972.50.

Money from a $40,000 emergency grant from the governor's Office of Housing 
Development will be used to pay for the accommodations.

"A lot of the competition said we took this because we needed the money," 
Bradley said, laughing. "There ain't no money in it."

The money the Royal Inn does receive may be enough to pay for the laundry 
services for the 40 to 50 people they house.

"If we get a break even point, we'd be lucky," Bradley said.

But Bradley said the owner of the motel doesn't think of it as a loss.

"Like I said, it's a community service. If some of these people can go out 
and get a job and a place to live by staying here 85 days, we're all for 
it," Bradley said.

Some people like Aaron are using the deal to save some money.

Aaron, who didn't want his last name used, said he works at Varsity Gasser 
but plans to move up to Portland soon where the rent isn't as high but wages 
are comparable to Flagstaff.

"Flagstaff's been real nice," he said. "The people here (at the Royal Inn) 
have been real friendly and kind. It was a place to sleep, rest up."

For Rodriguez, the question of what to do with the homeless is global.

"You can't close your eyes to it. It's in every town, every city. The fire 
only brought recognition of what needs to be done," he said, preparing to go 
check in the long line of the county's homeless waiting at the front desk. 
"It's going to take everyone."

Reporter Michael Marizco may be reached at mmarizco@azdailysun.com or 


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Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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