Homeless ground rules for gem show - Tucson News Now

Homeless ground rules for gem show

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Tucson Police Department and a group of homeless and homeless advocates sat at a round table in Veinte de Agosto Park in downtown Tucson.

Included in the conversation was a director from the Parks and Recreation Department.

The discussion, just days before the gem show comes to town, was to set ground rules for the homeless.

During the gem show, Tucson will be on the world stage with dealers from all corners of the globe and buyers who follow them.

There is friction every year as evidenced by one sign displayed in the homeless encampment which read, "Gem Show coming. Hide your homeless."

"They can be here as long as they're compliant with the ordinances," says Greg Jackson, from Parks and Rec. "They can be out here as long as they're within the rules."

But that's a sticking point, what are the rules?

"We're still unclear about that," says Michele Ream, an outreach specialist with Primavera. "Even after the meeting, we still don't know."

According to some of the homeless, the police department has established a rule which says they can't have more than one backpack and blanket.

"What do they do with all of their other possessions?" Ream asked.

Several of the homeless say they've been told they can sleep on the sidewalk between 10:30 p.m and 7 a.m. as long as there is space for people to pass.

But that's a violation established by the city two years ago when it was at odds with the Occupy Tucson movement which took up residence at Veinte de Agosto.

That's one thing that needs to be clarified according to the homeless advocates.

They're concerned that they will be rustled out of the park when the gem show starts, despite the assurances they are getting now.

The city manager, we're told by the group, has also indicated the park needs to be "secured" before the start of the gem show.

They take it to mean they'll be forced out.

But that's still unclear.

The Parks and Recreation Department also says it will provide a map to the homeless where they can get water and use restroom facilities.

The homeless say people who want to bring food and water will not be allowed in the park unless they have a permit, but that has not been confirmed.

The Tucson Police Department, which did not appear on camera, says the rules for the gem show will come from upper echelon city officials, such as the city manager and city attorney.

The department will enforce the rules, not make them.

That kind of language has the homeless concerned but defiant.

"Whether it's the gem show, whether it's a march, whether the Pope came down here, we're going to be here so we can make it that people have a safe place to sleep," says Jon McClane, an organizer for the homeless.

McClane has met with the Tucson Police Department twice since November trying to establish a safe park for the homeless to sleep in.

"This is the only place they feel safe," he says.

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