TUCSON – The most recent numbers show that Pima County is experiencing its lowest homeless population since 2012, but you might not realize it, looking at one area in central Tucson.
People who live and work near the De Anza Park at East Speedway Boulevard and West Stone Avenue say they are tired of seeing the homeless shuffle in and out of the park that sits in their front yard.
Jan Labate lives right across the street from De Anza Park. She tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators she has seen an endless cycle of homeless at the park, and it has been that way for nearly 40 years.
“Well, it comes and goes. Sometimes it’s very bad, sometimes it’s not quite so bad,” Labate said.
Labate also tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators she believes one source of the problem at De Anza Park is groups that are actually trying to do good work there.
“I’d like the churches to stop feeding people here, or if they do feed people, to clean up their own trash,” she said.
Henry Patel has been operating the University Inn on North Stone Avenue since 1993. He tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the situation at De Anza Park.
Patel says he has contacted city officials several times about homeless issues.
“Every customer coming here to the hotel – they’re scared,” Patel said.
Patel also tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators he has recently spent more than $250,000 to renovate and upgrade the hotel, and he is afraid the seemingly endless flow of homeless people trashing the park will negatively impact his business.
He also says it creates a safety issue.
“There’s a syringe over here all the time; a syringe over there. Nobody is going to play in the park,” Patel said.
In fact, while the News 4 Tucson Investigators were at De Anza Park, we saw multiple Tucson Police units working on trying to clean up the park, and the drug activity that goes on there, as well as also officers from TPD’s Mental Health Support Team.
That is important, as more than half of Pima County’s homeless are battling mental health issues.
For his part, Patel tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the work TPD has been doing at De Anza Park is a start, but he wants the city to do more.
“It’s frustrating all the time, but what else can you do?” Patel said.
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