WeatherMonsoon 2022

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Getting the homeless out of washes and to safety during storms

TPD’s Homeless Outreach Team
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Posted at 1:47 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 21:32:20-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Another piece to monsoon preparations is getting the homeless out of their camps inside washes or tunnels to safety.

Tucson Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team is a newer unit in the department that works with social service agencies to assist those who are homeless. And in preparation for storms, the team tries to get the homeless out of washes and into shelters.

“They're called flash floods for a reason,” said Sgt. Jack Julsing, a supervisor of TPD’s Homeless Outreach Team. "They come quickly and if you’re stuck in a tunnel or stuck in a wash, it's very hard to get out. The water’s going to take you and you’re at risk for drowning, major injury, death."

Thursday night, TPD and several local agencies came together to get emergency shelter for those being displaced from their outdoor camps due to monsoon activity.

“We did not have a system like that in place for monsoon until, really, yesterday. We decided let’s do the same thing we do with Operation Deep Freeze, but do it as a response to the extreme weather which is the monsoons coming,” said Julsing.

This is now something Julsing says the department will be doing from now on, especially with the huge population of homeless people camping out in tunnels and washes.

“There was one couple that we had been working with, that thought they were safe from flooding. And we just found out this morning that TFD had to save them last night because the floodwaters went even higher than they thought and washed their camp away, and now they’re out St. Joe’s with some injuries,” said Julsing.

Julsing says there aren’t safe places for the unsheltered to stay so they go to the washes - but now with major monsoonal activity, that isn’t safe anymore.

“We don’t have enough housing available to house the entire population so a lot of them are stuck outside,” said Julsing.

What TPD is trying to do now is make the public aware that the homeless problem may be a bit more visible, since they are moving from their camps. But Julsing says, TPD and several agencies are trying to keep everyone safe so there are no medical issues and less swift-water rescues.