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Homeless encampments keep coming back to Pima Wash in and near Foothills

Homeless encampment in Foothills
Posted at 10:56 PM, Feb 07, 2024

CATALINA FOOTHILLS, Ariz. (KGUN) — As Stefan Wilcox breathed in and out through an oxygen machine, he remembered back to his time serving in the military when he was exposed to Agent Orange.

For a few years, he’s had to use an oxygen machine and CPAP for health issues related to being exposed to Agent Orange.

However, when homeless living in an encampment behind his house start fires, the smoke from the fires goes into his home and into his oxygen machines, making his health issues worse.

“It wakes me up because it smells like the whole house is on fire, so I’m up and up and start coughing,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said the encampment has been there since at least 2015. Neighbors in the Foothills also say they have seen other encampments pop up in the Pima Wash in recent months.

Wilcox contacted the County and they got back to him in 2022 and 2023, telling him the encampment is on private property, so only the owner can get rid of it.

“I should be able to do something about it, but apparently since the thing’s been here for 10 years, nobody’s doing anything,” Wilcox said.

The Pima County Regional Flood Control District said they’re seeing more homeless outside of Tucson’s city limits, saying it could be because of an increased effort to get rid of homeless encampments in Tucson.

Wilcox is hoping the owner of the property gets rid of the encampment.

“Do like they do with the rest of them…tear it down,” he said.

The County said they clean up in and around the wash four times a year and when needed at someone’s request.

They said they’re in the process of working with a private property owner to get rid of solid waste on the property in the wash. They said they’re going to be getting rid of it when all the people from the encampment have been evicted.

Still waiting on the property owner, Wilcox is just hoping the homeless are considerate.

“I don’t want to change my lifestyle because of what they’re doing,” he said.

Andrew Christiansen is a reporter for KGUN 9. Before joining the team, Andrew reported in Corpus Christi, Texas for KRIS6 News, Action 10 News and guest reported in Spanish for Telemundo Corpus Christi. Share your story ideas with Andrew by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.