By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Through binoculars at night, the corner of Ninth Avenue and Madison Street is a murky scene of people milling in the dark. Yet the few lights in the area radiate just enough to see that the street's after-hours crowd of about 100 homeless men and women is beginning to stir.
Small bunches of people are moving in and out of a shadowy line of stumpy palm trees outside St. Vincent de Paul on the north side of the street. More are gathering on the south, in front of the long gray building housing the "homeless post office" and labor pool. One man zips down the curb, arms flailing. But the rest huddle in groups of two and three. Then, almost as if on command, they jockey into two larger clusters that begin to migrate up the block, feet shuffling, arms and heads jittering, reaching and bobbing in silhouette like ants converging on a chunk of food.
It's about 9 p.m. on a Saturday in early April, and the crack cocaine has just arrived.
It isn't always easy to tell who's who on Madison Street during the day. But this drug scrummage reveals a daunting truth about one segment of the homeless who live on and around these beleaguered five or six blocks west of Seventh Avenue south of Jefferson, at the east end of Capitol Mall.
The men and women here tonight aren't waiting to get a free lunch at Vinnies, or see the doctors at the county health clinic for the homeless down the street. They aren't about to pick up their mail, or check in for the night at the nearby Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) 400-bed shelter.
They've come to Madison to do one thing, and do it as often as they can: smoke crack. And they've abandoned just about every remnant of normal life to do it.
From a distance, the problems on Madison Street have been easy to pin simply on homelessness. But up close, it's clear that drugs are the real reason this area continues to be Phoenix's poster scene of urban rot.
Drugs, especially crack cocaine, have been the agent of the squalor and filth that clings to and surrounds the wasted lives here. Drugs give people a reason--some would say excuse--to sit among heaps of refuse and rotted food on sidewalks glistening with phlegm. Or to call out, "Rock, man?" to every new passerby. Or to rob, hustle and prostitute for a little cash at the margins of downtown alleys. Or to pile 20 at a time into the bathrooms behind CASS, to smoke crack out of sight.
It's evident that the presence of crack addicts on these streets--a short walk from state, county and city offices--continues to eat away at the heart of downtown Phoenix. The blocks around Madison Street are far more than a blot on the clean image that city and downtown business leaders have been working to build for the urban core.
To local businesses that live with the problems that drugs bring--and to many of the homeless who aren't addicts but depend on the area's social services--Madison Street and its environs host a concentration of predators and victims, a persistent gauntlet of hustlers and users, many of whom are both.
Part of the problem, many advocates for the homeless say, is that the simplistic demonization of drugs over the past decade has discouraged people from finding out who the homeless addicts are and how they got that way. Are they there by choice? Or is there something more to know about their circumstances?
Many advocates believe that those questions will need to be answered before there's any new commercial development to the west half of downtown or consolidation of downtown's existing patchwork of homeless services into a single "homeless campus."
"I don't think there's any question that we're going to have a serious conflict there unless we figure out how to deal with the substance abuse and drugs," says Martin Shultz, who heads the Capitol Mall Committee of the Phoenix Community Alliance, the private group of downtown corporate and business leaders that has been pushing for development in the area. "But I'm afraid to say--and I sure don't want this to happen--but I'll predict it's going to take a crisis before we get some real attention for this."
Government researchers estimate that a minimum of 2,600 homeless drug addicts in Maricopa County can't get treatment because of the lack of programs. There are at least another 300 addicts who also can't get treatment and suffer from mental illness as well. Many officials believe the numbers are substantially higher.
Those numbers aren't likely to decline anytime soon. Homeless service providers point out that despite recent promising efforts to divert some drug offenders into treatment programs, rather than incarcerate them, jails and prisons are still releasing inmates with drug problems to downtown streets.
The 1996 federal legislation denying Social Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and access to Medicaid to some substance abusers is also increasing the number of homeless drug addicts. State, county and city officials estimate that between 60 percent and 80 percent of Maricopa County's overall 8,000 to 10,000 homeless have substance-abuse problems. That percentage is believed to be considerably higher in some parts of downtown and neighborhoods to the south and west, like Buckeye Road, where drug abuse and prostitution flourish.
Policy makers aren't moving to fund necessary treatment programs, so the Phoenix police are providing their own brand of street treatment.
Since late February, officers from the Neighborhood Response Unit, which patrols the area, have been conducting what has become something of a semiannual "intensive enforcement" campaign around Madison Street.
The effort--which formally ends this month--began with the elimination of a tent city that had sprung up in January along the back of the Pioneer and Military Memorial Cemetery on Harrison Street. The nomad encampment housed as many as 50 people. Its multicolored tarps, sheets and crates, scavenged wood--some with two-shopping-cart garages--stretched along the fence from 12th Avenue to 15th Avenue. The first day was a banner day of arrests--20 for narcotics and 21 for camping and trespassing.
Since then, the 10-week crackdown has followed the pattern set by previous police efforts to clean up the area.
Usually billed as "zero tolerance," and "intensive enforcement" campaigns or sweeps, these cleanup efforts have lasted anywhere from several days to several weeks. The gains have been just as short-term.
One two-week campaign in 1996 yielded 55 felony arrests, mostly for drug crimes, and more than 150 misdemeanor arrests--for camping, trespassing and other minor violations. A two-day crackdown in 1997 netted 33 drug arrests and eight on lesser charges. A third action last year resulted in 58 felony arrests--most for drug-related crimes--and 200 misdemeanors.
Through last week, the tally from the current effort was 58 narcotics arrests, 114 for camping and trespassing, and 82 for other charges. Like previous cleanups, this one has lost steam over time.
"If there is a zero-tolerance program going on, you sure wouldn't know it," says Jim Morlan, who owns the Electric Supply Company down the block from Vinnies and serves on the board of CASS.
He says the drug action between Eighth and Ninth avenues, in front of Vinnies and the post office, is back to where it was before the crackdown began.
Yet Morlan, like many in the area, doesn't fault the police. He's convinced that unless substance abuse is tackled at the street level by more than just cops, the addicts and crowds will only wind up shuffling off to some other neighborhood once the commercial development that downtown business leaders have been pushing finally arrives.
"Without getting the money needed to do things like drug treatment," he adds, "there isn't a lot of hope for these folks."
It's a little after 10 p.m. For several hours, officers Dave Laslavic, 40, and Dave Wilson, 32, both five-year veterans of the Phoenix Police Department, have been playing cat-and-mouse with the drug dealers on Madison, and giving wake-up calls to homeless people sleeping on makeshift bedrolls beneath the "no trespassing" signs posted on nearly every building.
Just about everyone they encounter knows the routine. Pick up the cardboard, pick up the food and blankets and move it, move it, move it. True veterans of the area begin folding up the cardboard they use for beds at the first sight of the patrol car.
At the moment, Laslavic and Wilson are less concerned about moving the addicts and sleeping campers along than with seeing whether they can nab some dealers. From a few blocks west, they've been watching the milling crowds at Ninth and Madison build into the clusters that signal the arrival of crack.
"What we usually find with a lot of the dealers down here," says Wilson, peering through binoculars, "is one's holding narcotics, one's holding cash, and one's holding a weapon. They usually run in threes. And there's usually somebody standing on the corner as a lookout."
Laslavic, behind the wheel, adds, "A lot of times they bring the rock cocaine down by bicycle. As you see, everybody huddles around them and they'll pass it out to individuals. They usually shave a piece of the rock off and smoke it, then sell the rest and come back with the money."
Dealers like to pull the end caps off a bicycle's handlebars and stuff the rock down the tube. They also try to throw police surveillance off by wearing Dallas Cowboys and other sports jerseys they can shed to a friend after they make a few deals.
"Most of the people we arrest with significant quantities seem to have Mexican ties," says Wilson. "We get a lot of undocumented folks. "The story's always the same with the dealers down here: 'I got the stuff from someone else.' So it's relatively easy to make small busts. But it's difficult to get beyond this street level to the large quantities of crack--the bricks."
Police and others say that many of the homeless addicts help dealers by holding the money or waving buyers in from the street.
"We're not talking about employment here, where money's going to exchange hands," says Sergeant Rusty Chlarson, a 31-year police veteran who patrols Madison Street and the shelter area. "Often their profit in the transaction is a little chip off the rock. The money goes to the dealer, the guy that's actually provided them with the product."
Laslavic and Wilson, who've been working the shelter area for about 15 months, say that every so often the police are able to put a dent in the drug traffic on Madison. Business had been relatively slow over the winter months. But the closure of the city's winter overflow shelter late in March put 300 to 400 homeless people, some of them crack addicts, back on the streets at night.
As if to illustrate the point, Laslavic eases the patrol car off 11th Avenue about 10:25 p.m. and accelerates east onto Madison. Wilson scoots himself a little forward in his seat and peers through the windshield as the car speeds toward the crowd.
"South side?" Laslavic calls, wondering which side of the street to hit.
"No, north side," says Wilson. "See it. Right there at Vinnies."
The car flies past the fenced empty lots between 10th Avenue and Ninth, and noses abruptly to the curb in front of St. Vincent de Paul. Laslavic and Wilson leap out, shouting in unison: "Watch their hands, watch their hands."
They plunge into a crowd of about 15 people, targeting two men walking swiftly together, heads down, eyes peering out from the corners at the onrushing cops.
Laslavic pins one man to the wall of the building and cuffs him.
Wilson reaches through a tangle of moving arms and grabs a wrist of the other man. Then, in a sweeping move, he presses him against the wall and twists open the man's clenched fist, which is holding some gravel-size chunks that look to be crack cocaine.
Laslavic frisks the other man and finds $250.
The arrest effectively ends the patrol's night on the street and begins about four hours of process and paperwork--a major reason "intensive enforcement" in this area exists in name alone.
With two cars at the most assigned to cover Madison Street and the shelter area, the cops have to ration their arrests. Patrols in the area are further limited by the fact that officers assigned there are often pulled away to cover the seven government housing projects and emergencies elsewhere in the city.
And the two-cops-per-car mandate after the killing of Officer Marc Atkinson in late March has played further havoc with patrols in the area. Many of the officers have been pulled off to assist in other precincts.
Yet in the shelter area, two-officer patrols are the only way the police can do their job. Laslavic says he would never try to make the kind of drug arrest alone that he made with Wilson.
"Too many people. Too many hands to watch. If I'm all by myself, the only thing I can really do is drive up and down the street, look at people and use the PA system."
Lieutenant Richard Groeneveld, who heads the 10-member squad that covers the shelter area, concedes, "I wish I could tell you we had the resources for this. But we don't.
"We want the officers to go down there and be visible, but we get in situations where we have to go off to other areas. Nighttime, when we get a lot of emergency calls elsewhere, can be especially tough."
The half-dozen officers interviewed for this story say that one of the frustrations of their drug enforcement work is that the dealers on Madison know when they have free rein; they know when the police begin and end their shifts, and when the cops aren't there at all. And they usually make the most of it.
Officers say that a sizable group of dealers are undocumented Mexicans. Laslavic and Wilson say the two men arrested on this night are fairly typical of the illegals they arrest for dealing. Both are in their 20s. As the evening unfolds, the one holding the money admits to a Spanish-speaking officer that the two had met a week or so earlier while staying at CASS and began selling drugs as a team.
He tells the officer that he didn't know where his partner got the drugs, that he had paid a coyote $1,500 to cross him into the United States somewhere outside Nogales.
Of the 26 narcotics arrests made early in the effort, at least seven were undocumented immigrants from Mexico. One had already been turned over to the INS. The rest were waiting to be transferred.
None of the officers who work Madison Street have any illusions about the effectiveness of their work. They know that their impact is temporary. They know they'll probably be conducting another Madison Street crackdown or special enforcement again before the year is out. They expect to see the people they arrest back on the street again and again. And they know that even if illegals from Mexico weren't involved, the U.S. has its own rainbow coalition of drug dealers already hard at work.
Police aren't the only ones frustrated by the drug dilemma. Homeless drug addicts and the people providing services for them say the lack of effective programs is keeping people on the streets. The wait to get into programs can last from days to months. Such delays might be a useful test of resolve. But most seasoned observers don't see it that way.
"That kind of delay reduces the likelihood of getting effective treatment to about zero," says Casey Ewbank, a social worker at Good Samaritan Hospital who earlier in the 1990s ran ComCare's homeless outreach team and helped develop Project Heart, a federally funded state-run treatment program for homeless addicts. "This would be true for anyone wanting help. But it's especially true with the homeless. They have no way to be contacted when openings occur."
Ewbank and many others point out that treatment programs expect people on waiting lists to respond quickly once slots become available. Most programs also require newcomers to be clean of whatever substance they're using.
"They could call you on a Friday," says Ewbank, "and say we want you here on Monday. That means you have to have maintained your sobriety, or have come out of detox at just the right time. That's impossible to plan."
There can be other obstacles as well.
Few programs accept patients suffering from both drug addiction and mental illness--a common occurrence among the homeless. Programs sometimes don't last long enough to get at the root of addictive behavior. And very few regimens have follow-up care to help prevent homeless addicts from returning to the same streets and circumstances that fed their habits.
As a result, treatment programs for homeless addicts tend to be revolving doors rather than final destinations. And some addicts become frequent fliers, riding programs for some clean time before falling back to life on the street.
Most agencies do little tracking once people leave their programs. However, drug counselors talk of long-term success rates--people who kick their habits and stay clean--in the range of 5 percent to 25 percent.
Why homeless addicts tend to relapse so frequently back to the drugs and street is a question that treatment experts debate. The answers, they say, can be as varied as the addicts.
Many homeless crack addicts--like all other addicts--tell you right off that everything's under control. They can take or leave the drug whenever they want. But when the conversation--often filled with the jumpy paranoia and deep rattling cough that afflicts people on crack--moves on to other areas of life, most of the 20 or so addicts interviewed for this story confide that the unbeatable pleasure they get from the crack smoke fills the canyon that lost jobs, friends, families and hopes have carved out of their souls.
The odyssey of Candy, a recovering crack addict, illustrates how the forces of homelessness and drug addiction can converge.
She once lived downtown. But in the past 10 years, she drifted west, working as a prostitute and using crack on Buckeye Road until she entered the Salvation Army's A.R.C. (Adult Rehabilitation Center) program in February.
At 42, she's a slight woman with a soft Texas twang and the hard-knock features of a longtime addict. Her face and skin have been splotched brown and white by years in the sun.
Sitting in the park behind the Phoenix Central Library, she talks quietly about a past filled with abuse.
She says she grew up in a troubled household in El Paso. Her mom and dad argued and fought constantly before her mom finally left him and moved to Houston.
"My dad was abusive to my mother and grandmother. He was sexually abusive to me and my sister. But before he died, when I got older, he was always there for me. I think in some ways he was a very sick man, a mean man, but there just weren't any resources to help him."
She ran away from home in her teens and was sent to a reformatory at 17. She became a prostitute at 19, when the man who fathered her son showed her how to work the streets. He also beat her. To get away from the beatings, she fled to Phoenix almost 20 years ago. She found jobs here, but continued working the streets, and lived with a succession of abusive men.
The abuse in Candy's life fits a pattern familiar to people who work with homeless drug addicts.
"We've started to notice that the problem of homeless addicts isn't just addiction," says Dr. Ed Gogek, the county homeless clinic's psychiatrist. "A lot of people in this country are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but they don't all end up homeless.
"Once we get beyond the addiction, we're finding that homeless people were often abused as kids. We're also finding that people who were abused as kids tend to come from homes with parents who had some form of addiction. Those two things are closely tied."
Gogek and other experts say that sort of baggage usually leaves homeless drug addicts with less incentive to escape the small comforts of their drugs. "Basically, these are people who have no self-esteem, no sense of belonging, or relationships. So a lot of the work being done now is focusing on how to motivate people--how to get them to the point where they want treatment and can succeed at it."
Candy says that her motivation was the hell she was living on the street, and a burgeoning desire to set things right with the family she could still reach. She had lost touch with her mother and sisters, and two of her four children--living somewhere in Alabama.
She says she had been trying to find a way out of prostitution and crack since the birth of a grandson in 1996.
"I didn't want to see him go through hell like my kids did," she says. "I had tried going to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, and learned about how it takes one person to break that cycle. I knew that somebody had to stop it. So I made it up in my mind to be the one."
But on Buckeye Road, drugs are far easier to find than treatment programs. She tried twice to quit on her own.
"The problem was I would always wind up going back to it," she says. "That usually happened when I was staying with people and they'd say, 'Your time is up, it's time to hit the streets.' It was always easier to be high out there than it was to face the facts. It kept my mind occupied on getting more and more and more, so I didn't have time to think about my kids."
She connected with "dates" at the intersection of 33rd Avenue and Buckeye. She camped with a friend, another prostitute, by the railroad tracks that thread behind the warehouses in the area, and sometimes with men.
Like many other homeless women and men in that area, she frequented the nearby Phoenix Rescue Mission for food, showers and respite from the streets and sun. All the while, she says, she began to feel an urgency about getting off the streets. She says she felt her time was running out, that if she remained as she was, Buckeye would be the place she would die.
Last year, an acquaintance at the Mission, which has its own treatment program for men, pointed her to another church-based organization that has a program for women. She spent more than a week at the shelter but never lucked into a slot in the program.
Back on Buckeye, she concluded that she didn't want a discipleship program that swapped drugs for God. "I really wanted to understand why I used the drugs, and why I relapsed every time I'd tried to give them up."
She continued working the street. Hoping to get arrested, she resorted to smoking crack at the bus stop on the corner of 35th Avenue and Buckeye. "I thought that going to jail was the only way I'd be able to get into a program. And I kept thinking that when I finally got arrested, I was going to ask them what took you so long? All I wanted was someone to help me. I used to pray to God for someone to just take me away."
God comes in unlikely forms on the street. In Candy's case, he showed up as Michael, a homeless man and fellow crack user who has been in and out of various treatment programs over the years.
Like many of the homeless on Madison and Buckeye, Michael shuttles between the shelter area and neighborhoods to the west. A black New Yorker with a quick mind and a muscular face showing whisps of mustache and beard, he knows the downtown homeless area well.
And many of the social service agencies know him. He has a reputation as a "bad ass" among some of them. On a recent morning in April, he'd just gotten out of Durango Jail, he says, for having trespassed at Vinnies, where he was banned from having lunch.
Yet he's also known for being willing to jump in on the side of an obvious underdog. When he first saw Candy, he recalls, she touched his weakness for damsels in distress.
"I watch people pretty closely," he says. "I don't put up with a lot of shit. And I'd been seeing Candy coming and going out by the mission for months."
He didn't know what she was up to, he recalls, but she seemed to be with different guys every time. She mentioned once that she wanted to get into rehab. "She look tired as hell. And I remember saying to myself, there's a 'lick.' They call it a lick because when a lion goes hunting, he licks. It's just like the animal world out here."
One day she arrived with a man who kept pressing her to go back out with him. "He just would not leave her alone. He basically wanted crack or sex. So when she went to the bathroom, I talked to the man. I told him to get his ass off the property before I whip him."
When Candy came out, her suitor was gone, along with her blankets. The two of them had been staying together. She told Michael she didn't have any other safe place to go. So he agreed to let her camp with him.
She told him she wanted to get into a program. So he made it his job to help her stay clean long enough--a minimum of 72 hours--to pass the entry urinalysis required by most programs.
Withdrawal from crack cocaine--unlike withdrawal from alcohol and heroin--doesn't trigger any significant physical side effects. It's an intensely psychological drug whose effects, addicts say, are more in the realm of emotions.
Candy and Michael stayed together five days. During that time, she says, Michael kept her busy in conversation and reading. "He's always got books--mostly novels--to read. He's a little bit different that way."
Their camp--several layers of blankets tucked under some trees in the corner of a parking lot off Durango--was within sight of the mission. Every morning, they woke up and went straight there and found a place to sit among the cafeteria-style tables under a large shed roof on the east side of the mission. They stayed there all day--away from the streets and drugs.
Few homeless drug addicts can get off the streets by themselves. Most need to be led to the doors of programs. And once they're in, they often need enormous support. Unlike addicts from more secure settings, for many homeless addicts entering a program means leaving the only friends and social network they have--on the street.
Candy's route off of Buckeye led from Michael to Kay Jarrell, a county outreach nurse who makes regular visits to the mission.
In an outdoors twist on house calls, Kay Jarrell, 48, and social worker John Gallagher bring health care to sick homeless people living away from the walk-in or hobble-in services available at the county's downtown Health Care for the Homeless clinic. Driving a county van, Jarrell and Gallagher, 29, reach people in places rarely seen by government officials other than police or fire emergency crews. They met Candy on one of their outings to the mission.
Some of their patients come through referrals from programs and shelters around Phoenix. Yet many come straight from wherever Jarrell and Gallagher find them. Their regular patients are as far-flung as Sunnyslope and the homeless encampments in the river bottom, south of downtown. They make the rounds of numerous camps along the canal that flows past the salvage yards and rendering plant west of 35th Avenue south of Lower Buckeye Road.
They manage to earn the trust of outcasts who customarily avoid vehicles bearing goverment seals. Their success stems partly from the fact that they don't play the public-health heavies.
"The regular cant about substance abuse," says Jarrell, "is abstinance is the only way. There's no in between. You just quit."
But she and Gallagher approach the problem in a way that the drug-addiction field labels as "harm reduction"--reducing the harm caused by drug use. The "just say no" crowd might say they're simply coddling homeless dope fiends. But Jarrell says she's more interested in providing basic health care to people who need it.
"People get terrible abscesses all the time by shooting up with dirty needles," says Jarrell. "I give them scrub brushes and antibiotic ointments and Band-Aids, and I tell them not to wait until it turns into the size of a grapefruit.
"What we've found in doing stuff like that is after weeks and months, they begin thinking about doing something different. John and I don't have to remind them about the problems of substance abuse. But we let them know that if they want to change that, we're available."
That's how Jarrell first came to know Candy.
"We really didn't know her as well as some of the other girls," Jarrell recalls. "Maybe all we'd ever done for her, for months, was give her condoms, a blanket or some ointment or Tylenol. But Michael had been talking to me about her, saying that she wanted to get off the street."
When Candy and Jarrell talked initially, Candy asked about getting into Another Chance, a federally funded drug treatment program that the city initiated to target downtown substance abusers.
But Candy would have had to lie about where she was staying to be eligible for the program. The larger glitch, as Jarrell saw it, was the program's outpatient format.
Jarrell's sense was that Candy needed to be taken off the streets and insulated from the life she'd led. "I thought she needed a program with much more structure--one that removed her from the people she ran with. I also thought she needed one that would keep her working and give her a family setting."
Jarrell got lucky and found a spot for her in the Salvation Army's A.R.C. program, one of the more highly regarded residential treatment programs. It's a six-month term that involves extensive work in classes, counseling and job training.
The Salvation Army declined to discuss the specifics of the program Candy is in. But former and current patients say its boot-camp discipline provides what many homeless people lack on the street.
It gets people up and fed in the morning, takes them to work at the Army's distribution center on South Central Avenue, and closely monitors their daily progress. The 13 women in A.R.C. eat and sleep in the family setting of a group home in central Phoenix.
Candy says softly that the program is forcing her to look at her past with a clarity and honesty that scares her.
"Yesterday, they asked me to write a letter to my mother but never mail it, because I don't know where to mail it at. It's hard to write to somebody. It's hard to think about that right now."
She begins to cry, pauses to dab her eyes with the back of a hand, then continues: "I guess I'd just tell her that I miss her a lot. And that I'm sorry. I hurt my mother. I hurt my whole family. Otherwise my life probably would have been different.
"I have four kids. I have two kids in Alabama that I don't have any contact with. And I have two kids here. I have a daughter on crack cocaine. She's probably messing with it because that's what she saw her mother do. I have a son that just got out of prison a year ago.
"I love them. And I'd do anything in the world to help them. That's one of the reasons I wanted so badly to get my life together to make up to my grandkids what I didn't do for my own."
Addiction-recovery experts say that the desire to make up for lost chances, friends and family is among the most common feeling recovering addicts have. It's also one of the primary causes of relapse.
"Right now," says Jarrell, "Candy's wrestling with A.R.C. wanting her to distance herself from her children. They're saying she's got to get herself healthy before she can start worrying about other people. And that's true. But that's hard. She wants to go out and save a lot of people right now. She's got something good and she wants to share it."
Every Sunday, Candy goes back to the Rescue Mission to see the people she knew on the street. The trip takes her down Buckeye Road, past the corner where she used to meet her "dates," and past the littered backs of the warehouses where she used to smoke her crack. She carries no more than $5, to avoid the temptation to buy drugs. But drugs are plentiful and addicts everywhere in the old neighborhood.
"I know people say I shouldn't be coming here. But I can't turn my back on those people I know. Some of them are the ones who gave me hope, and I want to show some of the others that if I can do it, so can they."
Candy's weekly sojourns to the area irk Michael.
"I don't know what the hell she thinks she's doing coming down here. I mean, if I walked into the forest where I got bit by a tiger, would I go back in that forest again? Hell no. She uses this rationale that this is where it all started. That's bullshit. I told her there's nothing but dope relationships down here--people using other people."
Candy says that Michael's got no business talking.
"That week he helped me stay clean, he promised me he was going to get into a program, and this time make it stick. He's still on the street and all he's done is get a haircut."
Michael admits he doesn't really have an answer for his homelessness and addiction. In some ways, he thinks he's too smart to have to sit through another recovery program. He knows the routine. He says he wants to quit drugs and get back to the productive life he had--he worked as a counselor with developmentally disabled people--before he hit the streets. He has an appointment with Another Chance this week.
In less defensive moments, Candy acknowledges the risks of returning to old haunts. She knows what she can find on the streets. She knows how easy it is to slip. But, at the moment, she also knows something else. She has reached that stage in the program where she thinks she sees why she has relapsed in the past.
"I figured out that part of my thing is I need to be needed. That's what I know. I need to give a lot of myself. That's why I want to help my kids and grandkids. In rehab they're always saying, 'You've got to slow down.' That I've never been important to me. What happens is I try to give so much to my family that when I don't get the results I want, I say screw it, see ya, I'm gone. I've got their problems and my problems all piled on me--so many problems jumbled up in my head that I can't do anything about. So I freeze up and turn to drugs."
The odds against someone like Candy--or any of the chronic users out on Buckeye or down on Madison Street--staying clean are high.
But prior to her enrollment in A.R.C., says Jarrell, Candy "was somebody you'd say was a chronic homeless addict who probably won't get off the streets. But there she is. She's trying. That's why you don't ever stop doing what you're doing to help them."
Candy and Jarrell are convinced she's going to make it through the program. What happens beyond that is less certain. There aren't many halfway houses for women. And follow-up care is practically nonexistent.
"Some of where she goes depends on whether she's going to be able to work, and how much will she be able to make," says Jarrell. "What I've told her is that we're not going to leave her out on the street. We will find her a place to stay."
Plans are being developed for a "homeless campus" around CASS in the downtown area. It's still very uncertain what will happen. But the proposed campus, which could be built by a combination of government agencies, could provide housing, food and health care, among other things, in a fenced-off compound.
It hasn't been determined whether the campus would include facilities for the kind of drug treatment that Candy is getting now, or the follow-up assistance she's likely to need. But Mark Holleran, director of CASS, says he hopes the plan would incorporate supportive housing--for low-income people in need of additional residential help and supervision.
"We know there's a great need for this, not just downtown here but throughout the Valley. This is a regional problem. And it demands that kind of regional thinking."
Yet relatively little money for homeless services in the Phoenix area comes from regional authorities--the state, the county and the city. Most comes from the federal government, in the form of competitive grants.
In the past year, the city initiated a federally funded program specifically targeting substance abusers downtown. Called Another Chance, it's a joint venture of the county's Health Clinic for the Homeless and META Services, a private firm that runs the L.A.R.C. (Local Alcohol Reception Center) detoxification facility.
The program will spend about $3.1 million over three years to treat a minimum of 360 people.
Social services providers just completed the annual process of ranking local grant requests to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for the 1999-2000 budget year. They say this year's cycle has been particularly brutal. More than 15 public and private agencies vied for what's likely to be about $8 million; their initial requests had totaled $26 million.
About $21 million of that $26 million "need" came from groups, including the state Department of Commerce, that provide housing for the state's "seriously mentally ill," or SMI in government lingo. That housing helps the state fulfill its obligations from a 1985 court ruling that requires Arizona to beef up services for its SMI population.
Advocates say state and local government reliance on federal money to do its social dirty work have led to enormous gaps in essential services for the chronically homeless. Little money is left after the SMI dollars are spent for providers of substance abuse treatment and other non-SMI services.
The money-scrounging process has pit one needy cause against another. And it has left the police, the businesses and people on Madison Street or Buckeye Road wondering if they will ever receive the support they need.
Contact Edward Lebow at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org