Hundreds of sober living recipients must vacate hotel

The program stopped paying rent months ago
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:46 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - People at a southside housing complex for sober living are scrambling to find someplace to stay after an organization helping with rent stopped paying. Up to 15 organizations were at Ocotillo Apartments and Hotel on Benson Highway Wednesday to offer help finding temporary services. Some people are staying, but their days there could be limited.

“Practically abandoned us,” said Belinda Gallardo, one of 252 people told they must either pay to stay at Ocotillo Apartments and Hotel or leave. Tucson Police were on the scene Wednesday to make sure whatever occurred on the potential moving day was peaceful.

“I’m not upset with the hotel I’m more upset with the people, you know, the people, the program,” she said.

Ocotillo management said that the program was paying for the rooms, food and group therapy for sober living. But after about six months, the payments from the program came late and then not at all. People have stayed at the complex for more than 70 days without payment, and Ocotillo management said that they are more than $360,000 in the red. More than 15 organizations, including from Pasqua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham nations, came to assist those who must leave.

“We hopefully could prevent them from becoming houseless if in fact, they are evicted from this property,” said Andy Squire, public information officer for the City of Tucson City Manager’s Office.

But while Ocotillo considers them occupants, with no direct agreement to stay there, attorney Paul Gattone said they have rights as tenants.

“And they have a right to due process before they can be thrown out of their housing. They have to have proper notice, they have to take them to court, and they have to get an order from the court, a writ of restitution, before they can put them out,” he explained.

This happened only months after the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System cracked down on hundreds of providers on credible allegations of fraud. If this is one of those cases, AHCCCS cannot yet confirm. Belinda Gallardo was also trying to figure out her next move.

“Hopefully something happens you know where everything comes out good for us because right now, we’re like chickens with no heads. Sad,” she said.

People who stay at Ocotillo with no way to pay could get a five- to ten-day notice from Ocotillo to leave. Management says they have not been throwing people out.

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