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Neighborhoods in Ward Two tackle rise in unsheltered population and debris

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Posted at 4:41 AM, Apr 26, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — In recent months, communities across Tucson have seen a surge in unsheltered individuals and debris in their washes, prompting local authorities and residents to take action.

Ward Two City Council Member Paul Cunningham has been at the forefront of efforts to address the issue. For over a year, Ward 2 has been making this effort every Wednesday for three hours with all of their volunteers.

"My staff gets out of the office and gets their hands dirty. Folks are pretty familiar with it on the east side at this point. We try to be as vigilant as we can in addressing some of the concerns the neighbors have. The bottom line is that it's important for us to connect with our neighbors in the community," Cunningham said.

One of the main focuses of the cleanup efforts is the washes, where undergrowth and makeshift residences have become common. Cunningham mentioned the safety concerns neighbors posed, especially for children in the community.

"There's a big focus for washes where you have undergrowth, where you have some folks taking a residence close to the neighbors, and sometimes it's not an issue, but a lot of times it becomes an issue because they're engaged in things that are perceived as a danger to their children," Cunningham said.

Ward Two has heard positive responses from neighbors about these cleanups. "I think they're appreciative. We've had a positive response, but I don't think they expected it. I mean, you go out to neighbors and you're out there in your vest and everything and they’re like, 'Who are you?' and I'm like, 'I'm your council member.’ And they're a little surprised," Cunningham said.

Ward Two's efforts extend beyond its residents, Cunningham personally reaches out to individuals living in encampments to offer assistance in accessing shelters.

"Same thing when I go into camps...I'll say I'm the city council member and I'm trying to help get them into shelters and they won't even believe it. I think it's a good thing to do that work, and I've got some background in it so I'm happy to do it anytime I'm needed," Cunningham said.