TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Neighbors and drivers call the large homeless encampment on Golf Links Road between Swan and Craycroft an eyesore.
Many send complaints to the Tucson Police Department to clean it up and move those living in the camp elsewhere.
TPD Homeless Outreach Team Sergeant Jack Julsing says the solution is not that simple.
“We’re just asking for patience while we work, cause we wanna collaborate with Housing and Community Development, we wanna collaborate with other outreach providers, so we can get these people off the street for good,” he said.
“Just removing them doesn’t solve anything. It goes from your problem to this person’s problem to that person’s problem. And it just destabilizes those individuals more. And it’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to the citizens.”
Julsing says the encampment has been cleared out in the past, only for people to return to the area along the Aviation bike path weeks later.
There are 25-30 people in the camp now, according to Julsing, and they will not be moved until there is enough local shelter space.
Brandi Champion, director of the city’s new ‘Housing First Program,’ says enough space to house the group could open up in 4-6 weeks.
TPD is working with Tucson Housing & Community Development on outreach to those living in the camp and on how to transition them to housing.
Julsing and Champion were on-site Tuesday to count the number of people living in the camp and deliver necessities like blankets.
“Citizens when they see a lot of homeless somewhere, they view that as ‘That’s us failing as a society’ or ’That’s something that we shouldn’t have to look at,’” Julsing explained. “Yes, that is true that there are some failures here or there along the way, but we also have to look at are we just trying to kick the problem under the rug, or are we trying to solve it long-term?”
Champion says the city is trying to streamline the process of getting the homeless into housing, ideally starting with fewer restrictions in local shelters.
“These people have pre-existing conditions,” she said. “They have substance use issues. They might have mental health issues. So removing all of those barriers that someone isn’t ‘ready’ to take you up on your services.”
Champion called the homeless camp on Golf Links the “main concern right now” for Housing & Community Development, but that there are other homeless “hot spots” around town as well.
She says partnerships between city agencies, like the one between HCD and TPD’s Homeless Outreach Team are essential in making progress and eventually solving the problem.
“I think communication and collaboration is the biggest key here,” she said. “Instead of being so siloed, coming together, working together as a team and being one team.”
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