Angie Lozano started Angie's House to help the less fortunate find affordable housing and rebuild their lives.
Editor’s Note: This is part of our Good on the Ground series, profiling entrepreneurial women who are addressing social issues in innovative and inspiring ways.
Some years ago, Angie Lozano was making a comfortable salary as chief financial officer of a Sedona, Ariz., luxury resort company. Then, an unexpected layoff in 2000 prompted her to make a 180-degree career change.
Since then, the frugal entrepreneur has been turning rental properties she owns in Cottonwood, Ariz., into low-income housing for seniors, single moms, mentally ill individuals, recovering drug addicts, recently released prisoners and anyone in need of shelter. A few years ago, she even turned one of her properties into a homeless shelter — the first of its kind in Arizona’s Verde Valley.
“It would be so much easier to just rent them,” Lozano says. “However, I do know I am serving a population that would literally have no place to live.” Her properties, collectively called Angie’s House, keep about 125 people off the street. “When I sit back and see how much it has impacted the community, it makes me feel good.”
Helping People Help Themselves
Lozano, a Cottonwood native, studied accounting at Northern Arizona University and spent several years working in the field before landing her “dream job” at the high-end resort company. “The individuals I would come into contact with would literally be spending $5,000 a week on vacation,” she recalls. Now, “I’m working with individuals who sometimes don’t make that in a year.”
When the resort company was acquired, Lozano’s position was cut — “and at that point…I thought, ‘What am I going to do, now that I’ve lost my dream job?'” she says. An avid saver who lives “well below my means,” Lozano had already purchased numerous properties, from which she was collecting rental income. She decided to make a living as a landlord.
That’s when she realized that residents at two of her properties were having a hard time covering monthly expenses. “I combined the utilities and rent and put it in one big lump sum so they were able to afford that,” she says. While that plan worked, she soon learned that many tenants also struggled with addiction issues. She converted two more properties into single-sex sober-living recovery houses, one for men and the other for women.
Today, Lozano has committed 10 of her properties to Angie’s House (she maintains six other rental properties that contribute income to her household). Her goal with Angie’s House is to provide support for people whose lives haven’t been the easiest. Some residents come directly from the county jail; others are undergoing substance abuse treatment. “Having a safe and clean place where you’re accepted and wanted is huge,” she says. “That’s why you’re able to rebuild your life again.”
Filling an Unmet Need
Lozano charges a below-market rate of $125 per week, or $500 per month, for furnished, pet-friendly rooms as a “program fee.” While it’s essentially rent and utilities, she makes it clear to residents that they must agree to stay sober and find work, if unemployed. “If it were just rent, they could do as they wish,” she says. At her four properties that are single-sex sober-living homes, she relies on house managers (who live rent-free) to supervise residents who are recovering from substance abuse. She and her husband, Pedro Gonzalez, perform all repairs and maintenance.
Ever the accountant, Lozano also manages the books for Angie’s House. Some residents require payment plans, so “there is a lot of additional work,” she says. Since inception, she has successfully sought to keep the business — which is essentially a private social service agency — sustainable without any type of outside funding except for the program fees.
In 2016, she turned Angie’s House into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with the goal of accessing grants or donations for expanded services. Thus far, she has received one grant of $5,000 from the city of Cottonwood, which she used to defray costs at the homeless shelter, which does not charge program fees.
Lozano has received local recognition for her work. The Verde Independent, the area newspaper, named her a Verde Valley Champion after she opened the shelter, describing her as “an angel who spreads her wings to protect those in need.” This past spring, she was nominated by the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Sedona chapter for a Shining Star award for entrepreneurial excellence.
Lozano says she opened Angie’s House in the first place because she saw a need in the community that no one else was addressing. “I know that a lot of times we as people want the government… to fix things,” she says. “But we forget how powerful we are.”
And she was inspired to open the homeless shelter, which sleeps up to 10 people, in part because of her husband. The two met 13 years ago while Gonzalez was making repairs on her properties. “Pedro was homeless as a young child and as a young adult,” she says. “So he gave me a huge perspective on housing for the homeless.”
Lozano acknowledges that the work she and Gonzalez do isn’t for everyone. “It isn’t a money-maker,” she says. But, “as long as we have enough to cover our mortgage, we’re good. We’re happy.”
Posted: July 25, 2017