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Old Posted Jul 4, 2008, 5:12 AM
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Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - December 15, 2001
Author: Tom Zoellner and Elvia Diaz, The Arizona Republic

Meanwhile, Les and Ruth Harlan are using a different type of mechanism to deal with the homeless: water sprinklers aimed at dousing the loiterers who hang around their 75-year-old family business in the 700 block of West Madison Street.

"It's just getting so bad that we felt it was the only way to keep them away," Ruth said. "They do drug deals and give you the finger. They have no respect for us."

The Harlans' heating, air-conditioning and sheet metal supply business is only a few feet from the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall, which many homeless visit daily. The Harlans say a permanent shelter would further undermine the neighborhood and their business.

Ricardo Medina, a 39-year-old immigrant from San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico, used to sleep along the Harlans' sidewalk until the sprinklers wet him down and he had to find another place to spend the night.

"I came here to work but have not been that lucky," he said.

It is a frequent refrain in this neighborhood, where gunfire and petty assaults are commonplace and the call, "Hey, are you buying?" is a universally understood solicitation to purchase drugs.

In Territorial days, it was a middle-class enclave of government employees, railroad workers and laborers. But the urban flight of the 1950s sapped its property values, and it has been a homeless haven since the early 1980s, when 800 urban refugees settled in a lot that came to be known as "Tent City."

Fueled by an economic depression, the homeless problem was compounded by the urban revitalization of "The Deuce ," a seedy row of flophouses and cheap apartments that was leveled to make room for the Phoenix Civic Plaza.

The only social services in the area at the time, the 125-bed Salvation Army shelter and the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, were overwhelmed with clients. In 1985, CASS opened a "temporary" shelter in a former county morgue at 12th Avenue and Madison Street. The now-decrepit building is still the largest emergency shelter in the Valley and, for many, serves as a symbol for the city's lingering lack of a coherent approach to the homeless problem.

CASS, St. Vincent de Paul's soup kitchen, the Maricopa County Clinic for the Homeless, and the outreach programs Andre House and St. Joseph the Worker, are within walking distance of one another, but there is little administrative connection among them and no effective system to manage cases.
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