Joe and Debbie Faillace opened a sandwich shop in Phoenix called Old Station Subs 37 years ago. They planned to build up the business and eventually sell it for enough money to retire. Instead, America’s homelessness crisis disrupted their dreams.
The Faillaces are not homeless themselves. But one of the country’s largest homeless encampments, with 1,100 people, has appeared within blocks of the shop. My colleague Eli Saslow spent dozens of hours with the Faillaces, their workers and customers at Old Station, which has become a front-row seat to chaos. People from the encampment will often come into the restaurant, telling fantastical stories and asking for money. A bullet recently dinged a fence nearby.
The turmoil surrounds them, Eli reported in a story published this weekend about the Faillaces’ plight. People argue, fight and deal and use drugs, much of it out in the open. The police were called an average of eight times a day within a half-mile of the restaurant last year. Hundreds of crimes were reported, including four homicides. The remains of a 20- to 24-week-old fetus were burned and left by a dumpster in November.
Now, Debbie wants out of the neighborhood. But the Faillaces can’t find anyone to buy their restaurant, even as they’ve steadily reduced the price.
“The people suffering the most in these situations are those who are now living unsheltered in the streets,” Eli told me. “But it’s also true that the rising homeless population has had dramatic impacts across cities. It’s Joe and Debbie’s shop, where just existing within that restaurant has become incredibly difficult, but it’s also every other business in that neighborhood.”
How did this become such a big problem? The U.S. builds too little affordable housing, experts say. Rising rates of poverty, mental illness and drug addiction also play roles.
The resulting homelessness crisis has reshaped life not just in Phoenix but also other U.S. cities, where encampments have grown and become more common. “I’m realizing here lately that we’re living in a frigging hellhole,” Joe said. “Us, them, inside, outside. Who’s it working for? When does it stop?”
Read Eli’s story here — his first for The New York Times since he came from The Washington Post, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of compelling narratives about going hungry in the U.S.
Related: “I get to do work that feels human.” Eli reflects on his time reporting this story.
War in Ukraine
Vladimir Putin made surprise visits to two Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, Crimea and the city of Mariupol, a defiant gesture after an international court issued a warrant for his arrest.
The warrant cites Russia’s deportations of Ukrainian children. Moscow has signaled that they will continue.
Russian troops are closing in on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, partly by sending unarmed soldiers to near-certain death.
Banning TikTok would help, but what’s really needed is a comprehensive law to protect Americans’ data, Peter Harrell and Tim Wu write.
Narendra Modi’s modernizing vision is pulling India forward, but his authoritarian streak is dragging it backward, Nicholas Kristof argues.
As Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Chaim Topol helped American Jews see themselves, Sarah Wildman writes.
The Sunday question: Should the Federal Reserve slow its rate-hike roll?
Continuing to raise interest rates to fight moderating inflation isn’t worth hurting workers and rewarding risk-taking banks, says The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner. Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse was mostly a failure of management and regulation, The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell counters, and inflation remains too high to ease off.
Advice from Wirecutter: The best Bluetooth headphones.
Lives lived: Lance Reddick was a prolific actor who played a police commander in “The Wire” and had prominent roles in the “John Wick” movie franchise. He died at 60.
THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE
On the cover: The war’s toll is visible inside a Ukrainian psychiatric hospital.
Recommendation: Old wives’ tales have subversive wisdom.
Eat: A cabbage can be the star vegetable.
Read the full issue.
THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, will travel to Russia to meet with Putin tomorrow.
The Supreme Court hears the case Arizona v. Navajo Nation tomorrow. It stems from a labyrinth of previous cases, but mostly centers on the Navajo Nation’s water needs and the Colorado River.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins on Wednesday in the U.S..
The Federal Reserve will decide on Wednesday whether to further raise interest rates.
The CEO of TikTok will be testifying before congress on Thursday.