Homeless veterans find safety in renovated south side complex - Tucson News Now

Homeless veterans find safety in renovated south side complex

New housing option for homeless veterans. (Source: Tucson News Now) New housing option for homeless veterans. (Source: Tucson News Now)
Each unit is one bedroom, one bathroom with a kitchenette. (Source: Tucson News Now) Each unit is one bedroom, one bathroom with a kitchenette. (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Fresh paint and new appliances are hard to come by when you're homeless. And if you're a homeless veteran, many say they will do whatever they can to get a roof over their heads.

"I think the biggest hurdle is the financial aspect," said Army veteran Jeff Lugo. "I didn't have first-month's rent and then security deposit to move in, and then whatever it would cost me to move whatever I've got to where I was going. Guys don't have that kind of cash that way."

It's why Phillip Fileccia is working to change that. The realtor and Certified Military Relocation Professional bought the old Redwood Lodge on East Benson Highway on the south side of Tucson with his investment partners for about $400,000 and will invest roughly $125,000 in renovations.

"Our veterans have been neglected," Fileccia said. He is turning the run down complex into a livable space. Fileccia said he doesn't expect to make money as a landlord for a long time with this project, and doesn't get any incentives through veteran agencies.

He said his intention is to keep his new project from turning into dilapidated transitional housing that gets no care or quality from its owners and tenants.

"We show our face at 6 a.m. and then at 6 p.m. to do nightly checks to make sure we've got a nice community," he explained, saying it's a daily process.

Fileccia wants each veteran to make each unit their own home filled with pride. Construction was underway Wednesday, to give veterans a second chance.

There are 24 available units - one bedroom, one bathroom apartments with a kitchenette in each. As of Thursday, eight units had been completed and three male veteran residents had already moved in.

"You've got cool A/C, new carpet, new paint, palm trees, and grass. What more could you ask for?" said Navy veteran Gary Pierce.

You could ask how they're paying the $625 rent, even if electric, gas, TV and internet utilities are free? Lugo is one of the new tenants getting help from veterans' services. They are helping to pay his rent, and he got the apartment at the Redwood Lodge after applying.

With a felony criminal record for DUI, Lugo said, he never could get past the application process at a typical Tucson apartment. "Oh, they don't care why or what," Lugo said. By checking the box saying he's a felon, his name and application were often discarded without a second look.

And then there's the money aspect.

"You hit the streets. People don't want you because you're a vet. Some people welcome you with open arms, but you've got to pay out the wazoo to get a place going and get something underneath your feet."

But at the Redwood Lodge, Fileccia can partner with Veterans Affairs, Old Pueblo Community Services, and La Frontera Center, to do his own background check - to look past the flaws.

"These are not guys that are going to sit around, and they're not looking for a handout. To open a door and just provide an opportunity - that's all they wanted," Fileccia said.

In the shade of the palms, for the new residents like Pierce, it's salvation.

"I'm getting what I want out of it. I enjoy it. I feel relaxed and safe here."

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