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Protesters march through downtown Phoenix, homeless shelter to close

PHOENIX — Dozens of protesters marched in downtown Phoenix Tuesday to protest the closing of a shelter that will put 270 homeless men back out on the street.

The marchers gathered at the State Capitol and made their way to Cesar Chavez Plaza to protest the closing of the men’s overflow homeless shelter in downtown Phoenix.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was not among the protesters, but he told KTAR that the shelter is being closed because it is in pretty bad shape.

“There were some significant safety issues for the shelter,” Stanton said. “It was never built for having people in there.”

Stanton says it was intended as a temporary shelter during a heat wave that led to the deaths of several homeless people several years ago.

The county said it does not have the money to make the repairs necessary to keep the shelter open.

State Rep. Lela Alston is worried about the men who have to leave the shelter.

“I have grave concerns that people may die because of decisions that are being made or not being made,” Alston told the protesters at the State Capitol.

State Rep. Ken Clark was standing in between the House and Senate buildings when he talked about who is to blame for putting the men back out on the street.

“The reason that we have continued insufficient funds from this state is because of the folks in these two buildings, and because the public doesn’t come out to vote (on election day). This is where the rubber meets the road,” Clark said.

Elizabeth Singleton of the Maricopa Alliance for Shelter and Housing said two things need to happen. First, the men need another temporary shelter. Then, she is calling for something else.

“The long term solution is permanent supportive housing with wraparound services for our chronically homeless and to help our mentally ill and medical individuals to get off of the street. That is the solution,” Singleton said.

Stanton agrees. He wants to raise $2.5 million to find permanent homes for the men.

“Real apartments. Real places for people to stay so that they can build some housing stability in their lives,” Stanton said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Stanton said that some of the money he wants to raise would come from “industrial development authorities.”

“$1 million from the county I-D-A, $500,000 from the United Way, and the corporate community is also going to step up to the plate,” Stanton said.

The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously in February to allocate 275 of the city’s housing vouchers for the chronically homeless. Stanton’s office said that a temporary indoor shelter will be set up across the street from the Men’s Overflow shelter at the Lodestar Day Resource Center. That shelter is being provided by Maricopa County and the Arizona Department of Housing.

As for Tuesday’s march, protesters had hoped to spend the night in Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix but were unable to get a permit to do that.