[Hpn] Homeless Sweeps Continue Around Tucson
William Charles Tinker
Tue, 11 Oct 2005 08:39:30 -0400
Dumps of homeless grow around Tucson
Oct. 11, 2005
TUCSON - Pima County has cleaned up nearly twice as many homeless camps
since early 2002 as it did in the 10 years prior, a sign of what
environmental officials are calling a growing problem.
Homeless camps pose problems because of the trash that accumulates around
them, worrying both nearby residents and environmental officials.
The increase is a direct sign that more people have complained about the
trash dumping, although it's not certain if there are actually more dumps,
said K.C. Custer, an environmental enforcement officer for the County
Department of Environmental Quality.
Department records show that about 29 percent of all wildcat dumps the
department cleaned up in the past three years and nine months were homeless
Most recently, officials removed about 200 pounds of trash from a camp
across the street from an elementary school.
The camp, which was used by at least two transients, was far from the
biggest. A backpack, a chair, a crumpled tent and two bicycles were among
the most prominent sights at the dump, which sat hidden from many passersby
by a mesquite grove.
"I'd gotten to the point where I wouldn't go out after dark to take out the
garbage," said Kathy McCall, who lives in a nearby neighborhood. "Maybe I'm
paranoid, but it just makes you nervous when you know the stuff that goes on
in places like that."
Most camps are far larger, holding up to 50 people and 8 tons of garbage. A
cleanup in another area consumed four weekends. Five camps were cleaned two
to three times each since 2002 after transients kept returning.
"They are a big health problem. You've got disease in the feces, and disease
in the garbage, bedding and clothing," Custer said. "They get moldy. Some
people out there are druggies. You get syringes all around."
Before the county empties a homeless camp, it sends in social service
officials, offering to get the homeless job training, food and temporary
Often, the homeless choose not to take advantage of those services, Custer
and other county officials said.
Lonnie Reiger, a volunteer at a food kitchen, said he keeps a clean camp in
the Santa Cruz River and hauls his trash out.
He said many transients don't want social services to change their
lifestyles because they believe that most of the help they get is temporary,
and "then they're back out there."