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.