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PHOENIX -- For years, Van Buren Street in Phoenix featured a string of rent-by-the-hour motels, but now plans are underway to transform two former hotels into housing for the homeless.

"They will be studio apartments with a private bath and kitchen," said Jauron Leefers, housing development specialist with the city of Phoenix.

Veterans will be given preference at the first project which will be on the site of the former Western Lodge hotel at 38th Street and Van Buren. The other project, dubbed the Travel Inn Apartments, will be at 36th Street and Van Buren.

Combined, they will feature more than 100 studio apartments. Private offices and a community center will provide residents with access to specialists who can help with job searches, substance abuse and mental health counseling.

"When people have stable housing it helps start to stabilize all the other things in their life," Leefers said.

Deputy Housing Director Maria Bears said the Department of Housing and Urban Development has set a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

"Is it a realistic goal? You know only time will tell, but the city of Phoenix is very committed to that goal," she said.

Federal funding will cover the estimated $7 million price tag. Construction should start in the fall with the apartments opening next year.

Christina Estes, Reporter

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