Veterans at homeless camp reach deadline to move out

PHOENIX -

Moving day came with nowhere to move for an east Valley homeless veteran’s camp.

"I'll find a place to sleep even if it's behind a dumpster," Joe Smith, who has been living in the camp since November, said.

Veterans make up most of the homeless people who lived at the camp on ADOT land near McKellips Road and Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway. ADOT made a deadline of Monday for the people to move out, and state workers made several attempts to find alternate housing for them.

Veteran advocates say they had permission to move the camp to property behind an animal hospital in Phoenix at 19th Avenue and Camelback Road, but the land owner backed out Monday after learning about potential legal consequences.

"The property owner is a very nice person," Phoenix Deputy Human Services Director Riann Balch said. "He cares about people who don't have housing and wants to help."

City officials and police arrived at the Phoenix site Monday. They said city zoning rules forbid overnight camping on commercial property.

They enforced a 5 p.m. deadline to vacate that property.

The veterans "don't like the government right now because they are betraying them," said Jeff Kagan, a spokesman for Veterans on Patrol.

 

Homeless advocates from the city and social service agencies were at both sites to offer shelter beds and other housing possibilities. About one-third of the people from the camp accepted one of the options.

A spokesperson for ADOT says in part:

 

"The State of Arizona is committed to protecting veterans and helping break the cycle of homelessness. Since this camp moved onto ADOT property on Dec. 6, the state's desire has been to assist the individuals in this area by helping to find them shelter and assistance. With that goal in mind, teams from the state have visited on multiple occasions to offer assistance to veterans and others."

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