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Veterans on Patrol drop off warm supplies at homeless camps

Published: Dec. 16, 2015 at 2:38 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - On frigid Arizona winter nights when the shelters are packed, some homeless choose to remain out in the cold.

According to Lewis Arthur, the founder of the Tucson chapter of Veterans on Patrol, there are more than 140 homeless camps throughout the area.

The group started out as a mission to look for homeless veterans who had slipped through the cracks, but along the way they found themselves coming to the aid of anyone without a roof over their head.

"In Tucson, we've found 18 veterans so far that are either not in the system or the VA themselves are looking for them," Arthur said.

The group has a base camp set up on private land at the intersection of 20th and Jacobus Street on the south side. Over time, the area has become a donation d rop-off point and a place where many in the community volunteer time and effort. Some bring supplies for the homeless, others take turns providing meals.

Every night, a group of volunteers loads up a pick-up truck and visits homeless camps set up all over Tucson to d rop off food, clothes and hygiene products.

Tuesday night, when temperatures were below freezing, the truck was loaded with blankets and firewood.

"We want to make sure everyone has blankets," Arthur said. "A warm visit and friendly faces sometimes make the difference."

The group asked Tucson News Now not to disclose the location of the homeless camps, as they did not want to make the already vulnerable population a target. Arthur said the city is aware of the locations of most of them.

At a homeless camp located in the Sonoran Desert there was an elaborate set up of tents, lights and deep fire pits

"Our homeless are some of the most resilient individuals in America," Arthur said.

April Polansky, a resident of the camp, said she's been homeless on and off through the years.

Polansky said she and her husband fell on hard times when both lost their jobs because of disabilities. They chose not to go to a shelter because they didn't want to give up their pet dogs.

"These animals are the best thing that happened to us," Polansky said.

The Veterans on Patrol volunteers d ropped up several cords of firewood and blankets for the group. This time they also came armed with a surprise -- warm camouflage jackets, a Christmas present for Polansky and her husband.

"This is awesome, it's awesome," Polansky said.

Volunteers said they are always in need of donations, especially food, warm blankets, clothing and hygiene supplies. You can d rop off donations at the camp set up at the intersection of East 20th Street and South Jacobus Avenue.

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