Tucson Breaks Up Downtown Homeless Camp

By Kate Sheehy
March 13, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. - People who had been living in a homeless camp in downtown Tucson had to move out or face arrest on Friday. The camp is part of an ongoing debate between the city, federal courts and activists over the regulation of where and how homeless people should be able to live in the city. 

The camp consisted of dozens of wooden pods and tents on the sidewalks around a park in downtown Tucson. Earlier this week a federal judge told the city it can make people move the structures. Bill Magnotto is with a nonprofit called La Frontera Housing. He said they volunteered to help people find somewhere else to go. But Magnotto said there aren’t enough shelters. He said usually the homeless set up camps outside of town in dry riverbeds, for example.

Kate Sheehy
Rules listed by organizers of the homeless camp that was in downtown Tucson's Veinte de Agosto Park. The camp was used as a way to protest city rules regarding the treatment of homeless.

"And unfortunately that’s the only place they can be and if police find them there, they try to break up the camps," Magnotto said.

Chevy Marchbank had been living in one of the sleeping pods for about two months. He said he plans to stay at the Salvation Army until he saves enough from working to get an apartment. Marchbank said he doesn’t blame the city for making them move.

Kate Sheehy
Volunteers, homeless people and Tucson police in the park as people gather their belongings to leave.

"You have to have respect for yourself and you have to have respect for the people in your surroundings and the lack of respect is what shut this down," he said.

Marchbank said there has been drug use and violence in the park. Tucson police said there was some tension, but for the most part people were leaving without any trouble.