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After 20 years of homelessness, Scottsdale man gets home

Jason Smith
Posted at 4:33 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 19:23:42-05

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — After 20 years of experiencing homelessness, a Scottsdale man now has a place to call his own.

In the early 2000s, Jason Smith found himself living on the streets of Scottsdale. He worked labor and odd jobs here and there, but nothing was consistent until a few months ago, when the City of Scottsdale teamed up with the Phoenix Rescue Mission to create Scottsdale Works -- Brick by Brick. The program offered Smith a new opportunity.

Reese Miller is a street outreach coordinator for the Phoenix Rescue Mission, a nonprofit working to fight hunger and homelessness in the Valley.

"Scottsdale over the last years has seen a growth in homelessness so we're hoping to bring those numbers back down," said Miller.

Miller helps run the Brick by Brick program. It finds five people experiencing homelessness to work three days a week. They not only get paid, but they also get transportation and a meal.

"Turns out to be about a five-hour workday and they get $60 cash at the end of the day," said Miller.

In a day, they'll make 100 to 200 compressed earth blocks, they're adobe-like bricks that are more energy-efficient and economical. The City of Scottsdale will use them for projects.

"It's similar to an adobe brick. So we have soil, sands, a little portland cement, we have a recipe that includes little to no water. And we mix it up and then we compress it inside the building," said Miller.

While Smith was working, Miller and others used available resources to find him a home and help furnish it. On his birthday, they surprised him with an apartment in Phoenix.

"I'm so ecstatic. At least I can go to work, I don't have to worry about being out in the sun all day. I can go home and be in the air conditioning, cook my own meals, everything that everybody else does, but it's one thing I was lacking that I hadn't done for 20 years," he said.

Smith's been applying for several full-time jobs. He said he wants to support himself. "One step at a time," he said.

He said he's proof people can bounce back if they want to. He said he wanted help, asked for it, and received it.

"At least I got a chance to do what I want to do now," said Smith. "If it wasn't for the programs that Scottsdale started up, I'd be sitting at the bus stop again."

"Once they start to plug into those resources, that's when they really benefit," said Miller.

Miller said Phoenix Rescue Mission offers resources for men, women and children. Learn more here.