One of those corners is an apartment complex near 36th Street and Thomas Road, where six H3 clients live.

Allen and DaCosta drive over to check in on all six, including a husband and wife. All but one is home and seem to be faring well.

The women drive client Lisa Stufano to a nearby drugstore to pick up her meds.

Lisa Stufano in April 2010, after being homeless for almost 14 years.
Lisa Stufano in April 2010, after being homeless for almost 14 years.
Russ Jefferson was wheelchair-bound when Project H3 came into his life.
Russ Jefferson was wheelchair-bound when Project H3 came into his life.

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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She lived on the streets of Phoenix for almost 15 years straight before Project H3 came along.

Stufano's story is sad: Born into a well-to-do Texas family, she apparently served a few years in the U.S. Army before serious mental illness — paranoid schizophrenia — intervened. She has had little contact with her family for years.

Stufano has been jailed often for crimes that include petty burglaries, drug possession, and prostitution. But she's managed to stay out of trouble with the law since the H3 team found housing for her last year.

Still, DaCosta says, no one knows what state of mind Stufano will be in when they show up.

"Last time, it was, 'You devil, you bitch,' a little out of control," DaCosta says. "You can't let it get to you. She knows that we love her."

Stufano answers the door of her second-story residence wearing a ball cap and a wrinkled blue dress. She has but one tooth left and looks much older than her 52 years.

This happens to be a good day for Stufano.

"The apartment's doing me wonders," she says. "I got the TV working. You should see an improvement in me today."

"I do," DaCosta says, smiling as always. "I'll never get over it. Are you clean?"

"I'm clean," Stufano replies, referring to recent illegal drug usage. "I love Phoenix once again."

After collecting Lisa's meds, the navigators drop by a McDonald's for a burger, which the skinny Stufano devours.

"I want to talk about your teeth," DaCosta says. "Teeth are important. When are you going to work on those dentures? Are you willing to get rid of that one tooth?

"Yes," Stufano says. "I can think about that now. I'm happy — at least I ain't got no big worries. Nobody's after me. I ain't having problems with the voices [in my head] right now. They aren't bothering me."

The navigators walk Stufano back to the apartment and say their goodbyes.

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart," she tells them.

"Awwww," they respond.


The sheriff's mug shot, dated June 23, 2005, is terrifying. It shows a shriveled woman of indeterminate age staring into nothingness, appearing closer to death than to life.

Jeanne Allen confirms that the creepy photograph is of her. It is almost impossible to reconcile the woman in the photo with the vibrant person whose upbeat spirit is so critical to the success of Project H3.

"It sure tells a story," she says of the mug shot. "When that day started, I honestly thought it would be my last one on this Earth. Then I got busted."

It was an arrest warrant for IV drug use.

Allen sat for four months in the Maricopa County Jail deciding whether she wanted to live or die, which would mean getting — and staying — straight.

Her dive into the abyss was dramatic. A mother of three (her children now are 21, 20, and 15), the Illinois native says she fell prey to hard drugs in the mid-1990s.

Allen says she literally walked away from her longtime job as a respiratory therapist at St. Joseph's.

"The double life was too hard," she recalls. "I was a meth addict, and I had it bad. I couldn't stay clean for the life of me."

She wound up on the streets of West Van Buren for the better part of a decade that ended in 2005. It was terrible, eking by in the most desperate and degrading ways possible.

Allen eventually cleaned up with extensive therapy (individual and group), prayer, stays at halfway houses, and a support system that eventually included her immediate family.

After almost a year of sobriety, Allen applied with Community Bridges for a position as a peer support specialist. She has been on the job ever since, working for a time at the CASS homeless shelter downtown and in other outreach settings.

Allen's bosses considered her a natural when Project H3 started to take shape, the same as they did Liz DaCosta.

DaCosta grew up in Gilbert, where she played softball at Mesquite High until dropping out at the age of 16. (She earned her GED later that year at Gateway Community College.)

DaCosta says she became a heroin addict when she was 19 and later switched her drug of choice to methamphetamine.

From then until she was 22, DaCosta says, "I was disconnected from everyone and everything that meant anything to me. I didn't know how I was going to get out of it. It's the worst feeling."

Then, in late 2007, DaCosta learned that she was pregnant. Estranged then from her family and on her own, she made a command decision:

"I had to choose between making a life for myself, or nothing."

DaCosta says she checked herself in at the county jail, to serve time on a warrant from a 2006 charge of attempting to buy heroin from an undercover officer.

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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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