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Phoenix hotel to be converted into shelter for homeless seniors

The 170-bed Phoenix Inn Hotel will become "The Haven," a shelter for homeless seniors.

PHOENIX — It was a purchase four years in the making.

"I have a picture of myself when the notary came to my house," said Lisa Glow, the CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services.

CASS officially bought the Phoenix Inn Hotel in December with plans to make it into a homeless shelter for seniors.

“We are seeing more and more homeless that are seniors,” Glow said. "Seniors that are on fixed incomes are losing their housing because rents are rising, and we have a lack of affordable housing."

According to the Maricopa Association of Governments Homeless trends report, Maricopa saw a 38% increase in homeless people 62 and over.

"They have unique needs so we will have specialized support for them," Glow said.

One man shared his experience with 12News. 

“When you become homeless, it’s incredibly difficult to get out of that situation,” John Merkel said.

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Merkel used to be homeless. He remembers how hard it was to get out of the situation while living at a traditional shelter with hundreds of other people.

"Try to do a phone interview, it’s just too loud you can't," Merkel said. "You lose your identity when you are homeless. You start to feel like a ghost, walking through a world where everyone is normal, and you're not.“

During the pandemic, project Safe Haven was created to protect potentially vulnerable unsheltered people. Safe Haven temporarily turned a Valley hotel into a shelter.

“I went from a dormitory with 300 guys there to my own hotel room," Merkel said "I started to feel like a real person again.”

Merkel said the move helped him get a job and a home.

The temporary plan created for COVID-19 is now the template that CASS hopes to replicate permanently.

“A really safe, dignified space to get back on their feet,” Glow said.

Renovations of the rundown hotel will begin in February, the hotel will get new furniture, paint, a common area and services focused on seniors.

“Everything will be provided here on site,” Glow said.

CASS hopes the facility will be open by the summer to beat the heat.

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