[Hpn] Homeless Sweeps Continue Around Tucson

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 11 Oct 2005 08:39:30 -0400


Dumps of homeless grow around Tucson

Associated Press

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."