City clarifies rules for Tucson's homeless who live in and around downtown park

Published: Jan. 24, 2014 at 10:03 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2014 at 11:46 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson police are taking action to restrict where the city's homeless people can be just ahead of this year's Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Police are most concerned about an area in downtown called Veinte de Agosto Park.

You may know it as the park where the Pancho Villa statue is.

There have been a lot of questions about where homeless people are allowed to stay and sleep.

It has been most confusing for the homeless people themselves who stay at or near the park.

Friday, there was clarification of what will be enforced.

Tucson authorities say the rules are now clear.

They say the park is closed from dusk to dawn, and that will be enforced.

On Friday Parks and Recreation workers painted a black line on the sidewalk on the east side of the park to show where the park ends and where the sidewalk ends.

That's important because, while the park is closed at night, homeless people will be allowed to sleep on the sidewalk, just outside the park.

That's as long as they leave at least five feet of sidewalk space between themselves and the curb for pedestrians.

The sidewalk is about 12 feet wide on the east side of the park.

The other ordinance that police will enforce is the one that prohibits obstruction of a sidewalk.

So, while the city says it is not moving homeless people out of the park, the homeless won't be allowed to have their property with them on the sidewalk at night.

"We're not moving them out of the park, but we're not going to allow them to store their property on the sidewalk when the park closes," says Tucson Police Captain Jim Webb.

Asked where they will store their property, Webb says, "They're going to have to find a place to store their personal property. We're going to allow them to continue to sleep on the sidewalk with a bedroll and a non-alcoholic drink, but that's the extent of the property they'll be allowed to use on the sidewalk."

David "Crosby" Caldwell spends time at the park and is angry about what he feels are the constant rule changes aimed at homeless people.

"They're changing the rules more than I change my socks, you know what I mean. And it's really ridiculous. I feel like I'm in the circus, okay. I'm jumping through hoops and jumping through hoops," Caldwell says.

During the Gem and Mineral Show, a permit is in place to make Veinte de Agosto Park an information hub.

Visitors and others will be able to get information about the show and about tourist sites.

We asked Captain Webb what the city's goal is in enforcing the dusk to dawn closure of the park and the sidewalk obstruction ordinance.

"The goal from the city's perspective is just to define the area of the sidewalk and to also start enforcing the obstructing the sidewalk ordinance. We're not moving them out of the park. We're still allowing them to sleep on the sidewalk during the nighttime," Webb says. "During the daytime they can be in the park as long as they are not committing any violations of the law,"

Webb says officers will be at the park Friday night to enforce the sidewalk obstruction ordinance.

He says obstructing the sidewalk is a misdemeanor.

Webb says police are enforcing the ordinances because of the growing number of homeless people in the park and increasing incidents of violence.

He says the ordinances will continue to be enforced after the Gem and Mineral Show ends.

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