News

Summer Months Turn Flagstaff Into Homeless Haven Despite City's Harsh Laws

To escape the hellish Valley heat, thousands of homeless men and women make the uphill trek to sunny Flagstaff during the summer months.

This week's New Times cover story looks at the relationship between the hordes of backpacking homeless and the picturesque city that is trying to deal with them.

While Flagstaff provides a nice break from the harsh weather of Phoenix, residents of the small mountain city live in fear of the havoc these long-term visitors can cause -- like wildfires.

Last year's Hardy fire was started by a homeless Californian transient who set up camp in the woods on the outskirts of Flagstaff.

The fire burned about 300 acres and cost roughly $1 million to put out. The man who started it, Randall Wayne Nicholson, is now serving a year-and-a-half in jail.

But despite the dangers the mountains continue to provide a sort of welcoming camp ground for homeless, creating the type of "hobo culture" most Arizona residents associate with the blue-skied college town.

See the story's slideshow here.

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Adele Hampton
Contact: Adele Hampton