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DIGGING DEEPER: Tucson woman moves out of hotel into permanent housing

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TUCSON (KVOA) - During the pandemic, the homeless population was considered high risk. Many were housed in several hotels under the COVID-19 Shelter Program until housing or other arrangements were made.

At the end of June, that program is scheduled to end.

Old Pueblo Community Services has helped over 600 individuals during the pandemic. So far, they've found permanent housing for nearly half of the at-risk homeless population.

Karen Gibson just moved into her apartment.

"Absolutely love it. It is such a blessing," Gibson said.

The former health care worker is among those in the high-risk category. She's diabetic and just two days into her stay at a midtown hotel that gave shelter to some of the homeless.

"I had a major stroke, and I spent three weeks out of the hotel," Gibson explained.

And just two weeks before moving into her apartment. 

"I had an infection and had my big toe amputated," Gibson added. 

For being in the health care industry for 30 years she knows she would've not survived on the streets and is forever grateful to Old Pueblo Community Services and the hotel. 

"I happen to hit everything at the right time," she said. "I believe it all came from God. That those blessings are all from God." 

Allison Chappell works for Old Pueblo Community Services.  She was able to help Gibson find her apartment. 

"Our goal is as the hotel is winding down to find housing for people like Karen whose left at the hotel," Chappell said. 

Chappell brought an SOS basket; it stands for Starting Over Supplies which is provided by the Assistance League of Tucson.

Chappell said she and other staff members have learned so much from the people they're helping.

"We've learned so many lessons from the individuals at the hotel," Chappell said. "They've taught us compassion and understanding, faith."

Faith is what got Karen through these difficult times. A message she wants to share with others: 

"Don't give up pray, lots and lots of prayers. Hit your knees. If you are not a Christian become one, I will show you and I will help you."

"You deserve this and your new furniture,"Chappell told Gibson.

Gibson responded, "You guys made it possible."

"No, you did...You worked hard," Chappell said.

Karen qualified for a special program where she will be getting new living room furniture next week. It's the first time in her life, she said she's had new furniture.

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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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