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.”
Angie Lozano – Angie’s House, Cottonwood, AZ
Angie For individuals sometimes it’s really not their fault that they’re homeless. Sometimes it’s beyond their control, but they’re all capable of getting out of it. It’s just giving them a place, and some support. Being loved and accepted and a place to lay your head at night is huge in order for you to be able to, to get back up on your feet.
TEXT Angie Lozano – Founder + Executive Director - Angie’s House – Cottonwood, Ariz., USA
Angie Angie’s House works with government agencies and other nonprofits to provide housing for low-income individuals in Cottonwood, Arizona, and from Sedona, Clarkdale, Jerome, Flagstaff and Prescott.
Angie I was born and raised in Cottonwood, Arizona. It was a small town. There was a lot of care. You could, you know, go out in the evening and play and you knew the people that lived next door. It was a really nice place to grow up.
TEXT Angela’s father was a school administrator. Her mother worked multiple part-time jobs.
Angie My parents, they worked very, very hard, but there seemed to never be enough to cover stuff that was outgoing. It shaped my life. I said, “Okay. I will work hard to get what I want but I will have to save for it.”
TEXT Angie majored in accounting at Northern Arizona University and graduated in 1991.
TEXT She began a career in finance.
TEXT By 2000 Angie was CFO of a large leisure company.
Angie We were doing all the way up to $75,000,000 in sales. I loved it. In the year 2000 a company from Florida merged with our company. And they always tell you, “Your job’s secure.” Of course that was not the case and so a lot of the top managers were, were released.
Angie And at that point was when I thought, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do now that I’ve lost my dream job?”
TEXT Angie had already bought two properties that she planned to use for retirement income.
TEXT The rent covered her mortgage expenses.
Angie The first two homes that I bought was actually just a regular rental property. I realized that my residents were having a hard time paying their rent. They could pay the utilities, but not the rent. So then I realized, well, they were dealing with some addiction issues.
TEXT Angie did not kick the residents out. She began to charge rent based on ability to pay.
TEXT As she bought more houses, she kept them single sex and required the tenants be clean and sober.
TEXT Local jails, specialty courts, rehab centers and private charities began to refer clients to Angie’s homes.
Angie We don’t require a huge application process. Their counselor calls me, we talk, explain to them that it is an actual program. They will be required to look for work, and get on their feet, and be self-supporting but pretty much if they’re willing to do that it’s a go and they come to us. And that was one thing I’m very proud of, we don’t have a lot of red tape. And the big reason for doing that is when someone needs help they don’t need help in four weeks. They need help now.
SOT Thank you, because that would have actually cost us about $75.
TEXT Maintaining the buildings is a constant job and is the way she met her husband, Pedro Lozano, in 2003.
Angie Pedro was actually helping me repair my rental properties. He was, you know, a very kind person and the neat thing I loved about him was I repairing my homes as well and we complemented each other.
SOT You’re going to have to repair the blind.
Angie Pedro was homeless as a young child and as a young adult. So he gave me a huge perspective on housing for the homeless. So he and I said, “We do the homes all the time. Why don’t we just create a homeless shelter?” So we did. So we took one of our small little homes and we turned it into a homeless shelter.
TEXT In addition to the shelter, Angie has nine transitional homes that can house 90 to 100 people a night.
TEXT But the need keeps growing.
Angie There are so many people in need of help and I...it breaks my heart when I can’t help them.
SOT I was really happy to hear that Winston, Glenn’s little boy and Carl’s little boy Guinness play. -Oh they do. It’s like two jet planes, just voom! Voom! Back and forth. Yeah, it’s funny.
Angie What I’m seeing with the homeless population here in Cottonwood is they’re older and that is when it’s heartbreaking because at 65 I don’t want to be looking for a place to stay. And those are the days when I’m like, “Gosh, if, is what I’m doing helping enough?”
SOT One month I got messed up on my money. So I stayed here for about a month until I got my disability check.
Angie But we forget how powerful we are. One person can make the difference and make the change and I love the challenge of saying, “Okay, this needs to be fixed. Let me figure out a way,” and then getting it accomplished. But one person can make a change in the world, just one.