TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — An economic squeeze that gets tighter every day is pushing more people into homelessness. A charity that helps feed the homeless says it’s seeing a surge.
The streets of Tucson are a hard and hungry place to live and at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen they are seeing more people asking for help.
“The soup pot is running out, like real early every morning, says Brian Flagg, Director of the Casa Soup Kitchen.
Flagg has been serving soup to needy souls for 39 years—he says lately there are more souls to serve.
“I'm seeing a big huge increase of people on the street, people that are hungry, people that are kind of desperate. There's more people on the street, anybody that's got eyes can see. And the rents I think are a big huge issue. The housing crisis. Rents are being jacked up big time and people just can't pay it.”
People come to Casa Maria for more than just soup. The Soup Kitchen offers surplus food from stores and food purchased with money donations.
Omar Tapia says while he waits for a place to live: “I stay right here at the park or back here by the railroad. And it’s hard, the nighttime, the bugs, and the heat, the heat’s what really gets you.”
Tapia says he’s been on the streets since a rough divorce about two years ago. He says lately he’s seen more and more people on the streets with him.
KGUN Reporter Craig Smith asked: “How much of the day do you have to devote to just making sure you have enough to eat?”
Tapia: “It’s half a day because I have to walk all the way from Old Spanish Trail all the way over here, then I got to walk back with the food and stuff, but it’s a blessing you know and we appreciate you coming out and finding how it’s going on.”
Brian Flagg says he’s grateful for food help from local government but that help has been cutting back.
COVID relief money helped governments house people in motels for awhile, but that’s scaling back.
Flagg says with the right training some people he serves could tap into the hot job market but others are too afflicted with mental illness. He says the real answer is new housing policies to help people afford rent and mortgage payments.
Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.