Alice has no family in Arizona (details are sketchy, but she apparently never had children) and was living in a Phoenix apartment before her employer cut her hours back last summer.

Her landlord evicted her in July. Alice was not yet 62, and so was ineligible for senior housing through the city of Phoenix.

First, someone helped her move her furniture and other possessions into a storage facility at the cost of $160 a month. Then she gathered up some clothes, soap and other sanitary items, a few mementos, and her beloved cat, Angel.

Jeanne Allen in a 2005 sheriff's booking photo for drug possession.
Jeanne Allen in a 2005 sheriff's booking photo for drug possession.
Liz DaCosta on Thanksgiving morning with two former "street people," Lisa Stufano and Russ Jefferson.
Paul Rubin
Liz DaCosta on Thanksgiving morning with two former "street people," Lisa Stufano and Russ Jefferson.

Details

Shadow Dwellers: A Series

What's the one image you took away from the Tucson shootings? We thought so. That mugshot of Jared Loughner is haunting. And for the world, it has become the face of mental illness in Arizona. Here, we know that's not true. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the story of what it's like to be mentally ill in this place cannot be told in a single photograph.

Tens of thousands of seriously mentally ill people live in Arizona. Some of them look just like you.

Other stories in the series:

Tucson's Cafe 54 Is the Real Face of Mental Illness in Arizona, Not Jared Lougher, by Amy Silverman

Meet Raven, a Homeless Man with More Community Than Many of Us Have, by Paul Rubin

Why Did the Arizona Department of Corrections Put a Mentally Ill Man in Cell with a Convicted Killer?, by Paul Rubin

Mental Illness Hasn't Stopped Chris Shelton from Becoming a World-Class Boxing Historian, by Paul Rubin

Jan Brewer's Response to Jared Loughner: Slash More Than 35 Million in Services from an Already Beleaguered Mental Health System, by Paul Rubin and Amy Silverman

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Alice stuck everything into a shopping cart (Angel was caged) and pushed it to her workplace, a few miles away. It was the middle of one of Phoenix's hottest summers on record.

That night, her work ethic intact, she reported for duty as usual.

Alice was a member of the working poor even before her employer cut her hours. Now, she had sunk into another category — the working homeless.

After her shift ended the next morning, Alice ended up in front of another building across Jefferson Street.

It was the City of Phoenix Housing Department.

The agency touts itself as "proud to say our various housing programs provide homes to more than 25,000 Phoenix residents. The department provides services and referrals to assist residents reach their goals and attain self-sufficiency."

Alice wasn't one of those 25,000.

Instead, kindly officials allowed her to sit inside the air-conditioned building during the day until closing. A fastidious sort, Alice would wash her security guard outfits in a bathroom sink there and hang them outside to dry.

After hours, she would step out to a bench with her cat and wait until night fell, maybe catching a few hours of sleep.

It's unclear where Alice got food for herself and Angel, though she allows that an occasional quart of goat milk did wonders for their health.

Alice would rub a bleaching cleanser on her legs to keep ants — real and imagined — at bay when she needed.

Eventually, someone at Phoenix Housing contacted Community Bridges, which quickly took note of Alice's plight.

Alice was vulnerable by any definition, and Allen and DaCosta were assigned to introduce themselves to her.

She is both headstrong and a bit dotty — a taxing combination — and asking anyone for help at first was out of the question.

"She needed stability and some friends," Liz DaCosta says. "There's nothing worse than having nowhere to go and no one to turn to. It's a feeling like no other."

The navigators slowly won Alice's trust by repeated visits to her place of work and improvised "home" at the housing authority.

At the same time, efforts to secure her a federal Section 8 housing voucher (for low-income people) were under way.

The voucher came through by early November, and Project H3 identified an apartment for Alice just west of downtown Phoenix.

The target date for her to move in was around Veterans Day, but a glitch arises.

The electric company is operating on a reduced schedule, and new customers have to wait a few days to get their power established. And the landlord won't allow Alice to move in without electricity.

Allen and DaCosta go to the state government office, where Alice has just finished her shift, to tell her what was up. She has her belongings stacked in the front lobby, and Angel's cage is draped with a thin throw blanket.

Alice wants badly to go to a grocery store to buy some goat milk.

"The cat needs to have it, too," she tells the women. "He got sick when I got sick. My stomach."

Alice gets into the back seat of the Community Bridges van, but she is on edge.

"Too much disappointment, too much discouragement," Alice mutters at the bad news about the housing delay. "Forgive me, my mind is on my problems. This ain't clickin' for me."

She's about to get out of the van, headed for parts unknown, when DaCosta speaks up.

"Actually, this is not a discouragement," she tells Alice, smiling warmly to emphasize her point. "This is just a step along the way. I want you in your apartment so much. We have your best interests at heart — from the moment I met you."

That resonates with the worried older woman, who stays put. Allen drives to a Fry's to get the milk, as she and DaCosta devise an impromptu plan.

This is what navigation is all about.

A few phone calls later, and Alice has a place to stay for the weekend, a room at the downtown YWCA.

Alice is openly skeptical but seems convinced when DaCosta tells her, "They'll have a hot shower there, and you will have your own room. You can bring your stuff up there, and we'll get the cat in there, don't worry."

(The navigators moved Alice into her new apartment the following Monday.)

As all this is happening with Alice, the navigators' 40 other clients also have an assortment of pressing needs.

"We are going to hit the eight corners of the world today," Jeanne Allen says.

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52 comments
babosoff30
babosoff30

So much for a free country, can't even smoke pot? it grows natural.. wth is wrong with people? why do u care if I smoke pot? dumb, you will go down in history as morons... What gives you the right to tell me what to do in a free country? something that grows natural in the ground.yea you are really doing alot of good stopping the use of marijuana which will never happen. Its mostly older people that hate pot... brainwashed..open your mind a little and lets fight over some issues that matter like pollution and saving trees which pot could help on both if you all would wake up.

 

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Stormy
Stormy

Here I sit, inside CASS, being transferred recently from UMOM emergency shelter reading this article. Many other contributing factors also play into the realm of homelessness, for example, full time students looking for employment, unemployed, people who are not within the certain age brackets as yet (55-62) and others who have been denied or pending disability. Not all of the homeless are or were ever drug addicts,alcholics, or prostitutes, however; many people are uneducated about that and typically stereotype and treat us as though we are. I have a 3.0-3.5 GPA and have received a scholarship, I still look for part time work. Homeless shelters are great versus living on the streets, but they do have their barriers due to time restrictions to look for employment, and limits your flexibility of hours that you can work. Homelessness is stressfull, depressing and drains you emotionally, physically, and mentally. Overall your article was very spot on and I would like to see a follow up article about all the above mentioned homeless people also.S.D. Full time college student

Paul Rubin
Paul Rubin

Stormy...Please send me an e-mail at my address, paul.rubin@newtimes.com

successfulmingle
successfulmingle

Life is so lonely .I am a rich and single man at present .I need a woman who can love me back . I also uploaded my hot photos on W/W/W.successfulmingle.c 0/M under the name of james1098, CERTIFIED INCOME)..It’s the largest and best club for seeking CEOs, pro athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, beauty queens, fitness models, and Hollywood celebrities.Please Check it out!I’m serious.

Wendell Johnston
Wendell Johnston

How we react to this story tells a lot about who we are as a society and people

Marcy
Marcy

Yep, some people are irrational and others aren't.

I'll put you down in the irrational category.

Ron Clowney
Ron Clowney

The only thin that saved me from my 12 years' homelessness was that I turned 62 and started receiving my social security retirement. It wasn't much, but it was regular. I had learned frugality while on the street, and was able to put my new-found income to good use. During the nine years since then, I have managed to parley my meager income into a nice apartment, a car, a computer and a pantry full of food. I am extremely grateful for all of the agencies that helped me along the way. I am also grateful to public libraries for rescuing me from the elements; and allowing me to pursue intellectual interests. I know what homeless people go through in winter and hot climates, I've been there too. I feel a sense of pride every time I hear about another brother or sister who finally got themselves off the street. Even though I know that they still have a long way to go.

MulletedWhiteWithChinBeard
MulletedWhiteWithChinBeard

It is easy to blame people for abusing drugs... but I like the drama where a person is facing the end of the world, and chooses life... and fights for their life... I mean we were meant to face up to death and today's world is so safe, certain people just can't deal with it.... just like many couldn't face up to the scary world that was yesteryear.

Marcy
Marcy

I don't blame people for using drugs, I only insist they take responsibility for using drugs.

If you want to become a boozer and lose your job for being a drunk, I'm OK with that as long as you are OK with the consequences for your poor life choices.

Aaron
Aaron

WOW, WOW, amazing statement!!!

mwmike
mwmike

And I'll bet you call yourself a Christian.

Steven
Steven

I really feel sorry for people like you. God has special plans for people that are selfish,selfless, and just down right mean toward their fellow man. The last time I checked the mortality rate is still 100% and, guess what? you will meet Jesus.

Marcy
Marcy

Is your imaginary god going to send people to your imaginary hell and stick redhot pokers in their eyes for all eternity like some seriously mentally ill sadistic serial killer? You worship a sick, twisted sadistic serial killer god?

Marcy
Marcy

Social workers make a fine living "helping" people like Russ.

Of course the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that will be spent on Russ over his lifetime won't produce anything of value other than keeping social workers and whoever supplies Russ with whatever he is addicted to rolling in dough.

Society would be better off letting Russ starve to death in the streets and taking the money it would have spent on him and funding the educations of some promising youth.

oliviaannie
oliviaannie

Yes ,there are promising youth, such as yourself perhaps. With a name like Marcy, nose straight up, I can see why your parents need to be slapped.

Marcy
Marcy

You're projecting honey. See if you can't get some help for your desire to hit people.

oliviaannie
oliviaannie

With the exception of Norm's comment, may the rest of you be thrown out of your homes tonight and have an exceptionally rough time out in the elements.

Bnbk
Bnbk

I hope your comment was not in responce to anything I said. I have long been an advocate for helping the people in need we have here in our state.

Marcy
Marcy

Unlike the societal leeches, if I was "thrown out" of my home tonight I'd have the money to check into a hotel. Not that I'd be thrown out of my home, I actually own it because I didn't waste every spare dime I came across on drugs and booze.

Bnbk
Bnbk

I find your comment insulting & disturbing.Calling people "leeches",because they have made the wrong choice & need help getting out of a bad situation. So you own a home ? Wow,join the club,there are many of us.Hell Marcy,some of us own multiple homes,properties & even businesses.Does this mean we should look down or denigrate someone else that isn't as fortunate as we may be.People fall into these types of situations for different reasons and some come from well to do families,as you may have noticed from reading the article. It's just a good thing that there are still people willing to help & it's ok if you choose not to get involved,just don't insult everyone that happens to need a hand up...........There,but for the grace of God,go I...........We should all keep this in mind as we celebrate this holiday season in the comfort of our large,warm,paid-off houses,enjoying more food & drink than anyone person should be allowed to............P.S.........My family has already purchased & donated,clothes,mattresses.toys & a T.V. to a family in need & hope to do more before the end of the year.........For everyone that can afford it,remember nows the time to donate so you can take the tax deduction.

oliviaannie
oliviaannie

Go for you Marcy. You have the money to go to a hotel....how long do suppose that money would last before you were thrown out? Do you really own your home, or does the bank for another 20 years because after all, you were smart to buy a 30, probably with flexible interest.Don't feel bad if you did this. Most did. And don't reply back with your grandiose response of how you don't owe anything. Merry effing Christmas to you and the likes.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

Marcy will realize one day that luck and circumstance (hopefully not by direct experience) have far more to do with how "wealthy" a person is than does hard work and living a modest life. This truism is especially true in this country where there is a social safety net - PAID FOR BY THE PEOPLE WHO USE IT - and a large amount of infrastructure - PAID FOR BY THE TAXPAYERS - which allow people like her to experience that luck and circumstance. There are plenty of drunks, drug addicts, child abusers, and lying cheats who by luck or circumstance have the means to consider themselves wealthy, at least monetarily (or momentarily). However, it is people like the veterans of AMVETS Post 5 and other organizations who care for the homeless that are wealthy, spiritually (and I don't mean Yahweh - not that there's anything wrong with that).

Norm
Norm

Very nice article. Had me in tears. Hope they are all doing well.

HAOLE BOY
HAOLE BOY

Head to Oahu Hawaii to see more homeless people than anywhere in the USA. they live in beach parks in tents all over and around the island of Oahu and at the famous Waikiki beach right in front of the fancy hotels there. or go to you tube and type in homeless in Hawaii and look for yourself. its unbelievable how many homeless here live in tents on the beach or right next to the beach. the cops just leave them alone cause there is no where for them to go. when you are surrounded by the ocean and live on an island in the middle of the sea your shit out of luck when he comes to beating it on out of town on a freight train to parts unknown USA. your trapped here!

MulletizedPubes
MulletizedPubes

Those aren't homeless....those are just Hawaians.

Bonga
Bonga

Those are rich white mainlander beach bum surfers your talking about.

Bonga
Bonga

Most are White- Haoles from the mainland that became unemployed and got trapped in Hawaii. Hawaiians have good loving family's that take then in if they become homeless. all you white haole mainlanders need to help your family's out more. we local Hawaiians take care of our own.

ReverseMullet
ReverseMullet

Is that what you call inbreeding and molesting you family members? No, I don't know about that.

ReverseMullet
ReverseMullet

Yeah.... They take care of their own by inbreeding and raping and molesting their family members. Pretty sad. Lots of boozing it up. Lots of gays. Why do you think the Hawaian symbol and the gay rainbow are the same???

RockinHawaian
RockinHawaian

No, he's right bro. The homeless on Hawaii are the natives. They just lack smarts. They are nice people just dumb, real dumb. People think they are dirty but that's just how they look bro. Peace.

Duke
Duke

Those Haloes needs to learn to swim and get the hell out our paradise.

Bonga
Bonga

They are 99% Lazy White Haloes like you that destroy our Hawaiian culture. do you know what culture is? its something you dont have.

Marta
Marta

Your comment was ignorant and you are an embarrassment to Arizona and its citizens.

MulletizedPubes
MulletizedPubes

No, they are 99% brown. They just don't know how to earn money. They are pretty ignorant.

ObservantFeller
ObservantFeller

God bless 'em. It's a great thing to give money to help people out, but it's an entirely different level of commitment to get out there and interact. I wish them all the best.

FAITH WITH OUT WORKS
FAITH WITH OUT WORKS

Maybe you should try it sometime. wishing others the best is a cop out. put your words into action. all talk and no action does not get the job of feeding the poor done. or as Jesus said , faith without works is dead.

ObservantFeller
ObservantFeller

No, I don't like people that much, and they are terrified of me. I am a money giver. But, I appreciate those that do work with them.

Gay man
Gay man

You are a giver of what? oral sex to males?

DR PHIL MCGRAW
DR PHIL MCGRAW

People dont like you much either there is no reason to like you at all. you smell sour and you are useless and are worthless like your mother told you you were. now go clean your toilet and wipe your smelly dirty filthy sour farting ass your smelling up your sofa cushion.

Bonga
Bonga

Try walking up to a poor lonely dirty hungry homeless guy or girl and give them some food or money and talk to them. that's how easy it is to give to them and be a nice christian. I do it often im not afraid of them at all. they are just humans like us after all. whats there to be afraid of? fear is of the devil.

Bnbk
Bnbk

Great article Paul.We all need to be reminded sometimes of the great need that exsists out in our state.There are many people,that although not homeless are hanging on by a thread.Goes to show that nobody should be given up on.All the people helping the homeless people in your article deserve alot of credit for first of all overcoming their obstacles & having the courage to help others,who's shoes they once walked in. I hope our goverment here in AZ will someday soon,open their eyes to the dire need some or citizens are in.

 
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