Even a minor migration stretches the resources in a little college town like Flagstaff, especially since its largest shelter shuts down its bunk room in the summer to conserve funds for the snowy winters at 7,000 feet. That leaves most of the city's homeless camping out — some by choice, others for lack of a shelter bed — and nervous locals hoping they don't burn the place down or chase away tourists.

As the sun grows dimmer behind the clouds, the worried Wood walks back to the little white SUV he uses to putter around town, offering blankets, ponchos, and socks to the needy people he spots every few blocks.

"I wonder where those guys went."

Trash heaps left by homeless campers become a problem.
Jamie Peachey
Trash heaps left by homeless campers become a problem.
Sunshine Rescue Mission is the largest homeless shelter in town during the summer months. It sits on San Francisco Street south of the train tracks. The homeless who can meet the shelter's standards — no drugs or alcohol — tend to congregate here, especially when there's a special program, such as this performance by this Scottsdale youth choir.
Jamie Peachey
Sunshine Rescue Mission is the largest homeless shelter in town during the summer months. It sits on San Francisco Street south of the train tracks. The homeless who can meet the shelter's standards — no drugs or alcohol — tend to congregate here, especially when there's a special program, such as this performance by this Scottsdale youth choir.


In 2005, Flagstaff was named the nation's 10th-meanest city by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The ranking was based on Flag's city ordinances, enforcement of those laws, and "the general political climate toward homeless people in the city." The distinction still stings locals, probably because it confounds the town's self-image as a friendly, tolerant, easygoing bohemian city that sits above the savage lowlands.

No one remembers — or possibly even noticed — that Phoenix also made the list of the 20 meanest cities. Yet if you're comparing the condition of the homeless in Phoenix and Flagstaff, it's no contest, says a homeless woman named Lilly (some homeless people interviewed for this story preferred that their last names not be published). Lilly, 35, is originally from the Hopi Reservation east of Flag and has been homeless in Phoenix and Flagstaff. She knows people who travel between the cities, and she's seen some of the same people in shelters in both places. Despite its meaner ranking, Flagstaff is, she says, a much more welcoming place for the homeless.

There's the cooler weather, of course, but Lilly says, "I think [another] reason people flock from Phoenix to Flagstaff is that there's no compassion down there. You're just a number — it's 'get your meal, get your cot, and get out.' Here, it's different. It's a lot kinder, there's a lot more compassion, there are more programs."

Flagstaff's programs are pragmatic, too, given the city's dependence on tourism. Lilly is enough of a realist to know that it behooves Flag's city fathers to keep people clothed, fed, and off the streets. While the Phoenix metro area is large enough to keep the destitute far from the gated resorts where the well-to-do lounge poolside sipping cocktails, Flagstaff's isn't.

"No one wants to see anyone sleeping in their car, especially if there's a busload of tourists coming through and wanting to spend their money downtown," she says. "It has to do with both money and compassion, but at least it's there."

The desire to push the homeless out of sight, off main thoroughfares like San Francisco Street and Route 66, is what drove the policy that landed Flagstaff its spot on the "meanest" list. This is the anti-camping ordinance that makes it illegal to sleep outside or in a car on public property within Flag's city limits — which has forced the homeless to trek into the surrounding national forest or to unincorporated Coconino County.

Thanks to the efforts of the town's close-knit group of advocates for the homeless, the law recently was relaxed to allow those cited under it to escape prosecution by arguing that they faced an imminent threat.

While his organization bashed Flagstaff for the anti-camping law, Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition to End Homelessness, headquartered in Washington, D.C., notes that a small city's homeless "problem" often is directly related to a nearby big city's homeless population. Donovan puts the blame for Flagstaff's summertime influx on Phoenix.

"The reality of the situation is that Phoenix's economy — its lack of affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage — has created this population and not afforded [it] the resources necessary during difficult weather," he says. "So they migrate up to a condition where they can live comfortably, and that's not okay with the folks where they land, which is Flagstaff. So I think the conversation should be between Phoenix and Flagstaff, and it shouldn't be this process where [Flagstaff] criminalizes the behavior of the people who come based on sheer need."

Donovan, who has visited Flagstaff and seen the city's homeless situation firsthand, says the migration is part of a phenomenon that goes back to the beginning of the last century, when trains facilitated the mobility of destitute hobos. These old routes — up and down the coasts, from New York to Minneapolis, across the South — still are traveled by transients, he says.

"And then there are these micro-travel routes that occur, and they usually are based on weather," he says. "In March, you can go from snow in Flagstaff to upper 80s in Phoenix — and the trek is so short."

But it's easier for the homeless to get absorbed in an area of 3.5 million people. The complaints come when they go the other way to get escape the unbearable heat.

Catholic Charities estimates that only about 10 percent of its resources go to people from the Phoenix area during summer months. But since people who have the wherewithal to make a 140-mile journey aren't prone to needing services at the same rate as more sedentary homeless people, this isn't indicative of the size of the migration. Still, the number of homeless from the Valley of the Sun strains the Flagstaff group.

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7 comments
Nikodisias Papalapsuslos
Nikodisias Papalapsuslos

YES , WE CAN...YES , WE CAN...WE WILL WIN IN WAR ON TERROR (30 whities or what are terrorists will never come back alive...thank you lord....aaamen).

What do you mean tragedy! It was just a birthday present for planet apes president !!! That's all ! Feels great to flip hamburgers and hip hop atop of good news...makes you feel vibrant and energized !!!

ARIZONA = UTOYA = GOVERNMENT‘S "AFTERLIFE" CASH & $$ FLASH MOB (there was no shooting in Utoya or Arizona, but tear gas and theater instead on faces of multiculturalism maniacs..your guilt or blame and shame weapon against us and our families in our own countries atop of forceful unemployment during so called "ECONOMIC CRISES" during which third world foreigners are allowed to rape, kill, and still is nothing else but fast way to early retirements for government related criminals/ terrorists...$$$ extra bonuses, and newly issued state identities while calling you a terrorists) !!! http://stateofterror.blogspot.... or http://stateofterror.wordpress...

OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.c... or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.... Whitie is fighting war on terrorism just to come home and be pronounced as terrorist...turned in Timothy, jobless, homeless ...YESSS, WE CAN...YESSS, WE CAN...GABBY OPENED HER EYES (Obaminator’s psychotic speech in Tucson = failed “Apocalypse Now“)

WAKE-UP !!! WAKE UP PEOPLE BEFORE IT GETS ALL TO LATE ON PLANET APES !!! TEARS WON'T DO YOU ANY GOOD !!! AS BUSH STATED "THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE PAID FOR"(to die ) !!

EVEN IF IRAQ WOULD HAVE BEEN WAR FOR OIL ONLY, VETERANS WOULDN'T NEVER EVER HAVE TO BE HOMELESS PEOPLE THE WAY THEY ARE AND NOR WOULD OUR PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE ALLOVER THE PLACE THE WAY THEY DO TO VERY TODAY(never ending “war on terror” story). BECAUSE EVEN IF WAR WAS FOR THE SAKE OF MONEY, MONEY SHOULD BE USED FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS AND NOT WHAT THE CASE IS OR AGAINST WHITES(to destroy us allover the world) !!! You don't really proof for 911, just put your sht together in your heads...THIS IS PLENTY ENOUGH TO HAVE O(B)SAMA INDICTED FOR CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST WHITE AMERICAN HUMANITY TOGETHER WITH HIS ZIONIST MASTERS) !!!

Don't worry O(s)bama, you have just saved USA what is lots of Dollars in your DEBT DEALS as those best of America or Navy Seals would also grew older and then you already know how it goes...DEAD & ILL = DEBT DEAL !!!

HOW MUCH FURTHER ARE WE WILLING TO GO IN ORDER TO PLEASE VERY SAME PEOPLE WHO DENY US EVEN THE RIGHT TO EXISTENCE(what is to you country without laws or lawless country in respect to your personal rights, but the one that in contrast to your denied basic human rights recognizes you extremely liable when payments are due) !!?

IS IT INDEPENDENCE THAT WE CELEBRATE OR DEPENDENCE (what are your credit card bills or alimony saying about it) !!? HOW IS YOUR DIABETES AND LOST MARRIAGES !!? FORECLOSURES AND JOB SEARCH !!? THAT IS THE QUESTION TO BE OR NOT TO BE !!! IS IT LAND OF THE FREE OR STATE OF TERROR AGAINST OWN POPULATION !!? IT IS TIME TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT COLOR ARE THE STRIPES ON OUR STAR SPANGLED BANNER !!! TIME TO DETERMINE WHOSE INDEPENDENCE/AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE TODAY(who wants to erase us and denies us the right to exist) !!! IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHOM WE ADDRESS WITH "PRESIDENT" (STOP HUMILIATING YOURSELF) !!!

VOTING POLL:

DO WE NEED MORE PROOFS TO INDICT OBAMA AND BUSH ADMINISTRATION FOR CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST WHITE HUMANITY !!?

1)NO, THEY ARE CLEARLY GUILTY AS OIL WAR NEVER EVER WAS REAL ISSUE IN GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITES. REAL ISSUE ARE FACTS OR WHAT WE WITNESS TODAY WHEN VETERANS ARE HOMELESS, JOBLESS, KILLED, ETC.

2)NO, AS 911 ALONE AS WELL AS ACTIONS IMPOSED AGAINST WHITES IN USA (as well worldwide) ARE CLEARLY INDICATING ACTS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITE HUMANITY

3)YESS AS JUST YESTERDAY(for over 15 years to very yesterday), WE (news/media = vacuum world of lies) WERE TELLING YOU THAT UNEMPLOYMENT WAS AT 10% WHILE TODAY ONE IS AT 50% (HOW COME NO ONE QUESTION JOURNALISM LIKE THIS OR WHAT IS WORLD OF LIES AND DEMENTIA)!

4)I AGREE WITH FIRST TWO ANSWERS ABOVE. IT IS TIME TO PRESS CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST BOTH ADMINISTRATIONS DUE TO ACTS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITE HUMANITY FOR THE SAKE(SAFETY) OF US AND OUR CHILDREN(DO NOT TURN THEM IN WHITE REFUGEES ON PLANET APES OR WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE WHEN VISITING ABOVE PAGES) !!!

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Skrapps
Skrapps

Good. Good to have some Cizmar every now and again. To ammend, those citizen patrols and night flights this year were in response to current fire conditions and almost daily hobo-camp-started wildfires. Just little ones, but they all have potential to ruin the lives of many people.

 
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