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Advocates hope ARP funds will be used to solve homeless crisis

Posted at 5:50 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 20:50:09-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Homelessness is on the rise in Pima County and across the country. The need for services is only expected to go up when eviction moratoriums eventually end.

“Everyone deserves a safe place to sleep at night, no matter who they are and without judgment,” said Sister Jose Women’s Center Program Director Penny Buckley.

Most of the women at the center are chronically homeless. Executive Director Jean Fedigan says the need for services has always been greater than the resources available, and that was before the pandemic.

“In a day it averages about 60 or 70 people." “So, we are about half of what we did before, because we are still under CDC guidelines,” said Fedigan.

The City of Tucson recently bought a 28-bed facility to be used as a shelter and is in the process of acquiring another 90-bed facility.

County Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz says that is great progress but says it is only a fraction of the housing needed.

“Why doesn’t the city and the county each put in $50 million and solve the housing side of chronic homelessness,” said Heinz.

Heinz says he wants Pima County and the City of Tucson to pull some of the millions of dollars received from the American Rescue Plan and spend it towards ending homelessness.

“We can think big,” he said. “Instead of just managing the homeless situation around the edges, we can think big and effectively eliminate it.”

Buckley says she has always thought the solution could be simple.

“Here in Tucson, we have a lot of empty buildings, a lot of empty homes, and we have a lot of people sleeping in alleys, and under bridges,” she said. “Somehow there seems like there should be an answer there.”