River dwellers evicted ahead of dam release

Posted at 10:47 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 02:01:44-04

“How are you?”

“Not as good as you,” was how the interview started.

A reporter wearing dress pants and a polo had just approached Ron, a man in his 50s who had lived along a dry river bed for nine months.

The reporter was there to ask about that kind of life, because that kind of life was now over.

Authorities told Ron on Tuesday that it was time to move; the homeless camp underneath Priest Drive downstream from Tempe Town Lake was soon to be flooded.  The water is set to be released this week so the dam can be replaced.

“It’s really expensive to live down there if you want to survive,” Ron, who declined to provide his last name, said.

He talked of shock from the high cost of bug spray during a trip to Bass Pro Shops, which is a two-hour walk from his old campsite. 

Ron would not describe how he made his camp live-able, unless the reporter gave him a “pot of gold,” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  Ron settled for a soda.

You “learn to dwell like a lizard,” eating food from churches and earning money by driving a rickshaw

Ron was one of two people who were told to leave their riverbed homes by Tempe and Maricopa County officials, a Tempe spokesperson said.

The water should be several inches deep after the dam opens and should only flow as far as Sky Harbor Airport, the spokesperson said.

Ron’s next spot, if it’s closer to a store, would lessen the ice-in-the-desert problem.

Living in a Valley riverbed, especially in the summer, requires one to “curb your appetite [for] ice,” Ron said.