Homeless numbers increase in Scottsdale By John Leptich, Tribune February 2, 2006

Dry, mild weather drove homelessness in Scottsdale up by more than 50 percent compared with last year, city officials said.

A count taken Jan. 24 by citys human services department workers and Scottsdale police showed 104 homeless in Scottsdale. Last years figure was 69.

An annual statewide count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for funding purposes. The region received more than $19 million last year.

Connie James, Scottsdales human services director, said the increase isnt surprising: Good weather means the homeless are more likely to stay outdoors rather than seek shelter, especially at night.

On Wednesday, a homeless man named Jerry, who didnt give his last name, sat on a bench in Chaparral Park. He said he moved to Scottsdale to be with relatives five years ago and lost his job in 2004. At 56 and in declining health, the former Detroit resident said Scottsdale treats him and others like him well. Jerry, a former tool-and-die maker, said hed like to find a job but hasnt been successful.

As long as we dont bother nobody, were OK, Jerry said. The cops usually leave us alone.

Scottsdale detective Sam Bailey said officers treat the homeless with the same respect and dignity afforded any resident. Problems occur if an individual is belligerent or refuses to comply with an officers request, which is rare, he said. (Does this mean that Scottsdale is a Bill of Rights free city and homeless people will be arrested if they take the 5th Amendment and refuse to answer a cops questions??? - I guess so)

Its a violation to sleep in the park for anybody, not just the homeless, Bailey said. Our officers give them cards with numbers they can call for help and ask them to move on. No tickets are given out. They usually comply and find somewhere else to go.

Jerry said ramadas like the one at Chaparral Park are great places to sleep, patrolling officers notwithstanding. When asked if he thought it seemed strange that there are homeless people in an affluent city like Scottsdale, Jerry rolled his eyes.

To me, it dont matter. It could still be Detroit, he said. Being a rich city dont mean nothing. We didnt pick to be here because of that. We dont have money, no matter where we are.

James said a count is taken in Scottsdale from McKellips Road to Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, which has the greatest concentration of homeless. Maricopa Association of Governments tells municipalities which day to start counting.

The numbers balance out, James said. The homeless can be hard to locate sometimes. Scottsdale is a nice place to be with some great parks, malls and places they can hang out when its nice out.

We make recommendations of where they can go for shelter, James added.

A lot of them just choose not to. They like staying outside.

Contact John Leptich by email, or phone 480) 970-2333

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