"Secure Campus" proposed for homeless in downtown Phoenix, AZ FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 12 May 1999 23:28:14 -0700 (PDT)

As people who've been homeless or are now, what do you think of the "secure
campus" for the homeless  proposal cited in the article below?  If we
designed our own campuses, what kind of campuses would bst serve our needs?

FWD  Arizona Republic - April 26, 1999


     Proposed campus for city homeless praised, criticized

     By Pat Kossan - The Arizona Republic

[Photo by Christine Keith/The Arizona Republic] Homeless people gather for
lunch Friday outside the St. Vincent de Paul Society's dining room on
Madison Street.

A group of Phoenix players - people with clout and access to plenty of
money - is proposing a 4-acre downtown campus to house a shelter and
services for homeless people.

These services now work out of crumbling buildings, mostly along Madison
Street, where the new campus would be built between 12th and 13th avenues.

The proposed site is a mostly empty, city-owned lot except for an emergency
shelter still operated by Central Arizona Shelter Services 14 years after
it was officially designated "temporary." It remains the largest emergency
shelter in the Valley.

Members of the Phoenix Community Alliance board, which is headed by Jerry
Colangelo, were once set on moving the shelter and surrounding services,
such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society dining hall, the homeless post
office and medical clinic.

These services and the people they serve became a nagging and emotional
problem in the way of the group's aggressive plans to redevelop the state
Capitol area.

After years of debate and research, the group's members are now ready to
take a bow for what they see as a sensitive, efficient, good-neighbor

But the applause from service providers is sparse and polite, and some
neighbors are disappointed, and nearing hostility. The loudest cheering is
from people who use the services.

Edward Donovan, 54, is back for his second visit to the CASS shelter in a
year. His legs were crushed in a work accident in 1991 and neither his legs
nor his life have been the same since.

"I hit the skids, started drinking, started feeling sorry for myself," said
Donovan, who likes the idea of a new, secure campus and not only because it
hurts to walk to the scattered services, such as the St. Vincent de Paul
dining hall. Donovan said the walk and wait in line is harrowing.

"Just going down there - with the amount of illegal drugs," Donovan said,
his voice trailing off. "You're waiting in line and they come up and ask if
you want to buy it."

A secure campus would make it easier for the police to separate those in
real need, those who are content to flop on a sidewalk, and what locals
call the "homeless impersonators," people who are there simply to sell
drugs to a vulnerable group of people, he said.

Tom Creighton, 34, lost several construction jobs recently and is visiting
the shelter for the second time in a year. He is working as a volunteer
during his stay.

"I've seen a lot of changes in some people," said Creighton, but motivation
is a problem with the often depressed and worn shelter visitors. A campus
of new buildings and lush landscaping could give the guests a little pride
and move them to clean their bodies, wash their clothes and change their
lives, he said.

But some business owners along Madison are finding the proposal hard to

They expected the relentless and intimidating parade of homeless men and
women who use the services - and spend much of the rest of the day sprawled
along their sidewalks - to be dispersed as part of the redevelopment pushed
by the alliance.

"It's a nightmare," said Leslie Harlan, whose family has owned a heating
and air-conditioning wholesale business in the neighborhood for 75 years.

"All my customers drive in here and look at the guys on the streets and say
"What is this?' " said Harlan, who admits that the campus could improve the

"If we could just corral them and put them in one area and stop them from
moving up and down the street," he said.

The executive director of the local homeowners association at first seemed
surprised - even shocked - to hear about the proposal to keep the services
in place and then seemed politely noncommittal.

"The board needs to review the proposal," said Tammy Bosse, who runs the
Capitol Mall Association, which receives $50,000 a year from the powerful

But one neighbor didn't hesitate to offer an opinion about the campus.

"We've got so much crime going on anyway and these people are right in the
middle of it. This is ridiculous," said Jess Gillespie, a long-retired Army
colonel and a 15-year neighborhood resident.

Gillespie's been through two wars and now spends much of his time sitting
on his front porch with a police scanner, a cell phone and a 9mm pistol
strapped to his hip. At night his equipment includes infrared binoculars.

In 1992, he was honored by Phoenix police for his work with the local Block
Watch and for his assistance in helping police make arrests.

Despite it all, he sees no progress and no hope for the future if the
homeless services, even consolidated into new buildings, remain.

"This has got to be one of the worst places I've ever lived in," Gillespie

Reaction from service providers such as St. Vincent de Paul and Andre House
is tentative. Their leaders are worried about details, such as who will
manage the complex and who will build affordable housing for people
graduating out of the campus shelters.

Mark Holleran calls himself a practical Republican businessman, who also
happens to run the CASS shelter.

He understands the alliance comes bearing money and clout to make or break
the Madison Street services, but he also knows a nice campus will not solve
the homeless problem downtown.

About 25 percent of his shelter guests are seriously mentally ill, another
third are straight out of jail and between a half and 75 percent are
addicted to drugs or alcohol.

They have problems that can't be solved in a 90-day stay in a shelter, even
a pretty shelter. Once their limited stay is over, there are no permanent
rentals they can afford and no counseling they can rely on.

"They're ready to move out and here's the brick wall they run into," said
Holleran, who often sees these same people returning for help.

He and the CASS executive committee support the new shelter and a
consolidated campus, but only if the alliance makes it part of a countywide
system of homeless services.

That network would need to include more entry-level shelters, affordable
supportive housing with on-site counseling, single-room-occupancy hotels
and family shelters.

The alliance is committed not only to build the campus but help to put into
place just such a countywide network to help the homeless, said Martin
Shultz, chief lobbyist for Arizona Public Service Co., who is spearheading
the capital redevelopment project.

Don Keuth, alliance president, said the campus is simply a prototype the
group hopes to duplicate throughout the Valley. Members are already talking
with other cities, he said.

But despite neighbors, business owners and original intentions, the
alliance no longer considers moving homeless services out of the Capitol
area an option. Shultz calls the proposed campus the end product of "a

The awakening came after years of often-heated debate with people providing
homeless services, was pushed along by research commissioned from Arizona
State University and by experience.

Farther east, when the same group of movers helped to resurrect the
downtown area that now includes Arizona Center and Bank One Ballpark, the
homeless were pushed aside.

"We had a homeless and transient problem we never dealt with," said Shultz,
which created conflict with business owners, their customers and people
living in the area but never created a solution to the fundamental problem.

"It was a revelation that we had to deal with the homeless issue with
sensitivity and passion," said Shultz, adding: "It wasn't an unnatural act
for us."

Shultz rejects the idea that services attracted the homeless, noting a
homeless "tent city" had formed before volunteers opened a shelter to
provide for them.

"By default, not by design, this area is the highest concentration of
homeless men and homeless families," Shultz said.

Now the alliance wants the campus to become part of its plans to make the
forlorn area around the state Capitol the next showcase for Phoenix's
downtown revival. The proposed site is "naturally buffered" from most of
the redevelopment area by industrial buildings, a cemetery and a railroad,
Shultz said.

He predicts "an outpouring" from the Valley's business community along with
city, county and state grants when leaders see an organized and efficient,
as well as humane, effort to help homeless people off the streets.

Critics, along with nervous neighbors and service providers, don't bother

"The only guy not nervous is me," he said. "I know it's the right thing to do."

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