Doomed River

The Southwest's last free-flowing stream ran dry for eight days in mid-July. It's time to act

Many of these people are drug addicts and alcoholics. Many are mentally ill. Most homeless substance abusers won't use homeless shelters provided by social service agencies because of restrictions placed on use of drugs and alcohol and the requirement that they seek treatment.

During the winter, the city doesn't require the homeless to enroll in programs to stay at the Watkins Street shelter. Instead, it simply opens the facility's doors to give the homeless shelter from freezing weather -- with no strings attached.

The city should immediately make the improvements necessary for the Watkins facility to function as an emergency homeless shelter not only in winter but during the sweltering summer months.

Terry Bower, director of the Day Resource Center at Maricopa County's Human Services Campus, says opening the winter shelter during the summer would "absolutely" save lives.

"We need a year-round overflow shelter," Bower says. "There is no stopgap."

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