Looking for help

"I'm on my own time," she said to the man. "I really don't have money to help you."

Even though the man walked away, the experience of having a panhandler or homeless person walk up to her on her own time is something that Moya is reluctantly used to.

Moya said many homeless migrate south during winter months and come back in the summer.

On average, Moya said the Salvation Army helps about 30 people a month with clothing vouchers, food boxes, hot lunches and breakfasts on the weekdays, referrals and an occasional hotel stay.

She doesn't have exact numbers of homeless helped by the Salvation Army, but did note that the homeless are coming to Prescott from around the country.

"We always have people coming up from Phoenix because there is no place for them there and we have no room for them here," she said.

Rhonda Chambers, manager of the Project Aware Shelter in Prescott, said the shelter offers short-term shelter for men 18 years of age and older, showers, and phone use and job listings. She said they accommodate as many as 11 men in the shelter.

Chambers said the shelter doesn't know how many beds will be occupied, because the number of men seeking accommodations can vary daily and it doesn't count until they start checking in homeless men around 6 p.m.

The most recent statistics provided by Chambers are two from 2003.

The County Homeless Street Count took place on Feb 27, 2003. Local nonprofit organizations and volunteers compiled the count.

Chambers said they do the count once a year, but didn't do it last year because the weather was bad and they thought they couldn't get an accurate count.

Chambers said groups plan the next count for February.

All told, the last count showed 128 men, women and children – 96 men, 29 women, four families and three children.

New Horizons counted six men and 10 women in the Prescott area. Catholic Social Services counted 17 men and five women in downtown Prescott. Project Aware counted eight men at their shelter and Prescott Unified School District reported three homeless children.

Open Door counted 28 men, eight women and three families with 10 people. The Church on the Street counted 13 men and four women at the Prescott Granite Street Park.

The Yavapai Regional Medical Center counted one homeless woman.

The Cottonwood Clinic counted a family of five. Prescott Valley Police Department counted seven homeless men in Prescott Valley.

Marc Delany counted 11 homeless men in the Prescott National Forest.

Chambers said the homeless issue in Prescott is bad, while noting that summer "is the worst time of the year" for an influx of homeless in Prescott because they come here to escape the searing heat in southern Arizona.

"You can always see somebody out on the street," she said.

Many homeless suffer from physical or mental health issues and drug or alcohol addiction, according to Chambers.

She said other homeless prefer taking advantage of free handouts from the community rather than using them as a stepping stone to help themselves out of their situation.

"The resources are here if you want to use them," she said. "But you can't make a camel drink water."

Cathy Peterson, regional director of Catholic Social Services of Yavapai, said the agency gets 20 to 50 calls daily asking for housing assistance.

Peterson said rising housing costs in the tri-city area make homelessness a year-round issue.

Peterson said costs force people to go to Paulden or Dewey for housing, bringing about the added pressure of dealing with transportation issues.

"They're what I call the working poor," she said. "They work every day, all day, for minimum wage and no health benefits."

Still other homeless have nowhere to turn for shelter, Peterson said. "We have some folks who come in here every day," she said. "I don't know how they're doing it but they are sleeping outside every night."

For more information or to make a donation, contact Catholic Social Services of Yavapai at 778-2531; Project Aware Shelter at 778-7744; or the Salvation Army at 778-0150.

Contact the reporter at jsoifer@prescottaz.com