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Affordable housing

Could you enjoy the luxury Sedona, Arizona, offers knowing that 'the help' sleeps in cars?

I am not convinced that 'sacred' is the word a janitor living outside of town in his aging minivan would use to describe the place. 'Holy hell,' maybe.

EJ Montini

The beautiful people who spend time in Sedona for what the local chamber of commerce describes as “spiritual and personal enrichment of the body and soul” probably don’t notice something about the place that is not exactly enriching and even a little ungodly.

I doubt that those luxuriating in the city’s spas or dining in its world-class restaurants sense something distinctly unpalatable.

I’d guess the privileged few who hire spiritual advisers to guide them to Sedona’s famous vortexes where, according to the chamber, they’ll “experience the mysterious cosmic forces that are said to emanate from the red rocks” never pick up on the fact that a number of the community’s restaurant servers, housekeepers, landscapers, maintenance workers, cooks, cashiers and others are sleeping … in their cars.

Vortexes are believed to be energy centers that are conducive to healing and meditation. The red rocks, blue sky, and lush, green vegetation in central Arizona are said to be a hotbed.

Lack, cost of housing hurts workers

The chamber calls Sedona “a cathedral without walls.”

To the men and women who labor daily to maintain that fantasy, Sedona is more of an aristocratic principality without affordable housing.

So much so, that the city may designate an area at Sedona Cultural Park, normally a performance venue, as a place where working people living in their cars will be able to stay safely. Local businesses have told the city that the price of living in or near Sedona has made it difficult to retain workers.

The city’s housing coordinator, Jeanne Frieder, said, “The cost of housing and the lack of housing is really something that prevents many people from living here, so they wind up living in their car.”

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Sedona's beauty is also its burden

There’s been a lot in the news lately about how crowded and expensive Sedona has become.

Author and former Arizona Republic reporter Tom Zoellner had an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle recently under the headline, “It’s lovely here in Sedona, so stay away.”

There are four primary vortex sites in Sedona: Boynton Canyon, Airport Mesa, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. This is Cathedral Rock.

There was a Los Angeles Times article headlined, “How to visit Sedona without being a jerk.”

The town’s beauty and popularity is becoming as much of a burden as it is a benefit.

Frieder, the housing coordinator, said the city envisions a place in the park where workers living in their cars would have security, facilities to wash up and restrooms: “It would be a place where workers who live in their cars can have a safe place to sleep, park, take a shower and then go to work, and they’re living locally.”

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Is sleeping in your car really 'living'?

Living? Is that what you’d call it?

The chamber says, “Sedona is a perfect place for spiritual and personal enrichment of the body and soul.” It points out that the place was regarded as “sacred” by early inhabitants and continues to be thought of that way by visitors.

I am not convinced that “sacred” is the word a janitor living outside of town in his aging minivan would use to describe the place.

“Holy hell,” maybe.

EJ Montini

EJ Montini is a columnist at The Arizona Republic/, where this column first published. Reach Montini at

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