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Stark and other advocates have estimated that there are anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 homeless people in Maricopa County, most of them in Phoenix. When there are so many homeless people, Stark says, CASS should spend money to help them, rather than keep it in the bank. We run from payroll to payroll," says Stark of her own agency. I think that's the way most agencies are."

That's true, according to the United Way. Only about 25 percent of the nonprofit agencies in the Phoenix area have socked away any financial cushion, says Joseph Haggerty, president of the Valley of the Sun chapter of United Way.

Haggerty says United Way recommends that agencies have a three-month cash surplus on hand. But don't look for that amount in his own budget. We don't have that yet," he says, but we're working on it."

IT'S THE WAY THAT CASS built its financial nest egg that irks Louisa Stark and others. They point out that the agency's reserve has increased while the number of people served has decreased.

In 1989, according to the agency's annual report, nearly 13,000 people stayed at the shelter. In 1991, 5,600 people stayed at the shelter.

One reason for the difference, Orton says, is that CASS shut down its outdoor shelter in 1990.


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Ellen Grant