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DIGGING DEEPER: A home for a single mother who was once homeless

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The homeless population, considered to be one the most vulnerable in our community during this pandemic, is at an all-time high according to social service agencies.

The city has stepped in and is using federal funds to house some of these people in local hotels.

One month ago, the Digging Deeper Team focused on a single mother who is also in a wheelchair. Crystal asked the team not to use her last name.

However, she said having a home was a dream and now that dream is a reality.

Over the weekend, she and her 7-year-old daughter moved into a house.

"I never thought I would have my own place you know," she said. "The first night we were here I woke up crying because I was so happy."

Her daughter Joanne, also known as Jo, is just as happy.

She is already decorated her room with unicorns and mermaids. Her desk and laptop are set up for school.

Jo is in second grade and loves to read. She said she's thrilled with her new set up.

"I really like it," Jo said. "Why? Because it's nice."

For two months, Crystal and her daughter lived in a hotel as part of a special program to house at-risk homeless people during the pandemic.

Prior to that, they were homeless.  If it weren't for Primavera Foundation and the City of Tucson, Crystal said "and everybody helping out and stuff, I would probably be on the streets or in shelter and I wouldn't have my daughter."

Crystal and Jo are just some of the 838 homeless people the city and social service agencies have helped since April. So far, 200 people have been placed in homes.

Liz Morales is the Housing Director for the City of Tucson.

"We feel obligated and responsible once we've taken them off the streets and put them into these hotels not to release them back on the streets," Morales said.

Morales said the federal government's CARES Act is providing some of the funding to help people, like Crystal and her daughter.

So far, the city has received nearly $8 million.

The community has also helped out by donating money, food and furniture.

"We're able to supply individuals and families so when they move into their units they're not moving into an empty unit," Crystal said. "I'm so thankful for everybody who has helped us along the way."

She also has a message, "It's all about getting that right foot in the door with the right people. You just got to keep trying and it will happen eventually."

Next week is Crystal's birthday and she will be celebrating in her new home and she couldn't be happier.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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