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Kick 'em when they're down

By Moniqua Lane
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 19, 2000
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In N Up is a non-profit hotel that has "the evicted, addicted, convicted, and afflicted and their children," as its tenants It strives to help these people "avoid the streets, institutions and death." As if these men, women and children don't have enough problems, the city of Tucson is trying to turn them all out onto the streets because it sees In N Up as a nuisance." This is far more than disgusting; this is wrong. Rather than attempting to shut down In N Up, city officials should be encouraging and working with the hotel and places like it which are willing to alleviate problems the city is either unwilling or unable to deal.

Redemption Option Fellowship Corporation took over the deed to the previously profitable hotel from Tucson native David De Fer who had already started it on its charitable way. Whereas snowbirds and convention-goers used to pay around $300 a week to stay at the hotel; hard-luck tenants now pay around $100 per week. For that small sum of money, residents get a roof over their heads, a free meal on Thursday nights and a little bit more.

Before they are allowed to pay for each new week, tenants must prove that they are regularly attending some kind of self-help program, some of which are offered in the complex. In N Up offers down-and-out people food, shelter and bootstraps by which to pull themselves up. It seems like a good operation, so good, in fact, that the City of Tucson wants to shut it down.

City prosecutors claim that In N Up needs to be shut down because it is crime-ridden. At the risk of sounding inarticulate, well, duh. What do they expect - an Easter parade? A little crime is hardly surprising. Little, by the way, is a word to be emphasized. The crime statistics used by the city and an overly zealous Tucson Police Department in their case against the hotel are inflated. The Arizona Daily Star even admits to reporting these false statistics. It turns out that the crime statistics for In N Up are no worse than those for the rest of the neighborhood.

It wouldn't be surprising if the city made the argument that it's really doing all of us an enormous favor. Closing the hotel's doors would send these unwanted miscreants a strong message that we in Tucson don't tolerate their kind of crap. If they don't like it, they can either suck it up or leave. Having done away with this criminal element of our society, snowbirds and L.A. refugees will be more likely to relocate here permanently. This will cause much desired growth and prosperity for all!

Yes, the city of Tucson could make this argument, but it would be wrong. The people living at In N Up didn't become poor on a whim, then capriciously decide to move to Tucson and wander its sunny streets of gold. A good number of them are families which have fallen on unexpected hard times. Other apartment complexes wouldn't touch these families with a ten foot pole. The few relief agencies that exist are already underfunded and overburdened. Closing In N Up down would only put these poor families, as well as addicts and ex-convicts on the streets, exacerbating Tucson's homelessness and crime problems.

All the city has to do to prevent this from happening is grant the non-profit hotel the property tax exemption that rightfully belongs to it. Instead, it chooses to use this minor point of law to bludgeon the embattled hotel out of existence. Bullying was a favored operational policy for the former mayor, under whom this mess began; it appears that it will continue to be so. The hotel's attorney has been forced to ask the Pima County Superior Court to stop the city from "unlawfully and unconstitutionally" shutting the place down. A decision is due on Jan. 28.

Does the city of Tucson need to bring on itself yet another easily avoidable lawsuit? Does the city of Tucson need even more people living on the streets? Does the city of Tucson need to discourage this kind of private sector philanthropy? No. The city of Tucson needs to aid and cooperate with In N Up and places like it, instead of kicking them in the teeth.

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