SECOND CHANCE: Investors to renovate another motel for homeless - Tucson News Now

SECOND CHANCE: Investors to renovate another motel for homeless vets

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

After success at another location in Tucson, two investors are hoping to help even more homeless veterans take ownership over their lives.

If you drive down Benson Highway, the motels aren't exactly showing positive signs of life. Run-down displays are not as welcoming as they once were, and places like the Benson Motel are showing their age.

But new owner Phillip Fileccia said he saw charm in the motel, built in 1947.

"It seemed to be well-attended by the staff," Fileccia said. "I could see people out every day, so it was the ambiance, if you will."

It's why he and his partner Lori Oien are hoping to rejuvenate the deteriorating rooms, where the ceilings are corroding and the floors are falling apart.

For Fileccia and Oien, it's a chance to catch lightning in a bottle again.

Because just across the street, the success stories emanating from their last project are visible in veterans like Tomas Estrada Duran Jr.

"It's so comfortable," Duran said. "It's home."

We first told you about the work being done in March on Duran's new home at the Redwood Lodge on Benson Highway.

The once-homeless Air Force veteran couldn't be happier, having found stability at the Redwood. It's Fileccia's past project, that now has full 26-unit occupancy.

These vets at the property are placed by various services.

"Especially now that it's summer and it's hot," said Deanna Echeverria, a case manager for Project Action for Veterans. "We don't want to keep them out in the heat any longer than they have to. So as soon as they have an available unit, that's how quick we put them in and we house them."

The tenants get help from services, like the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department helps pay rent and utilities are covered by partners Fileccia and Oien.

"This is just sweat, blood and tears that you put into these," Fileccia said.

He hopes the Benson Motel is turned around as quickly and efficiently as they did the Redwood Lodge. The sale of the Benson Motel is expected to go through in the next couple weeks, and they'll likely get started on renovations immediately.

Fileccia said he hopes current tenants at the Benson Motel will stay once their rooms are done being worked on. Management said they are aware that a change in ownership could force some tenants to find a new place to live.

But like the Redwood Lodge, each room that is renovated is a chance for a homeless veteran, like Duran, to seek salvation inside.

"Being in the predicament I've been in, it's so overwhelming and I humble myself," he said. "All this is brought back to me and I'm regaining my life. It's giving me a sense of self again."

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