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Pima County spending more money cleaning up homeless camps

Posted at 9:37 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 00:36:04-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Homelessness is a growing problem in Pima County, and the cost of cleaning up camps is really adding up.

The Regional Flood Control District spent $221,327 cleaning up camps last year. That's twice the cost from 2018.

Cleaning up camps in areas like washes has become a full-time effort, according to Andy Dinauer with the RFCD.

"It's not something that we have loaded in our budget as a line item," Dinauer said. "But it's something that we have to absorb the cost of. And so it hits our budget pretty hard."

He says what's found in camps often requires pricey cleanup crews.

"We encounter drug paraphernalia, needles, human waste, you name it," Dinauer said.

One camp last year racked up a cost of almost $30,000, according to Dinauer. The cost for this year is on track to total $275,000.

That has a huge financial impact to monsoon preparation projects around the county. And as the number of camps continues to climb, Dinauer says it's important to tackle the causes of homelessness, like mental health and substance abuse issues.

"If we can do more on the front end of some of those issues, perhaps we can sort of slow the increase down a little bit," he said.

A lot of the cleanup efforts come from complaints from the community, according to county officials.

If you're concerned about a homeless camp, you can call the Department of Environmental Quality, the Pima County Health Department, the Pima County Sheriff's Department, or the Tucson Police Department.