Homeless numbers decreasing as more finding housing - Tucson News Now

Homeless numbers decreasing as more finding housing

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Gospel Rescue Mission says it will serve about 2,000 Christmas meals during its 29th annual Christmas dinner.

That is up considerably from last year when it was cold and rainy and it served just 1,300 meals.

"It's a beautiful day so I think we'll serve more," said Victor Hightower, Public Relations and Outreach Coordinator for the Mission. "But it's been trending down for the past few years."

The reasons for that may vary but Hightower thinks it may be, in part, economic.

"The economy is better and people are doing better" he said.

But there's still a tremendous need to fill.

"We're full every night," he said of the Mission. "We have to provide as many services as we can to as many people as we can."

The demand is so great, the Mission is looking to increase its bed space up to four times in a new facility.

It's estimated there are 1,700 homeless in Tucson but only 600 shelter beds. Still even the Salvation Army says the number of meals needed has dropped.

In recent years it served up to 5,000 meals on Christmas Day but that has fallen to about 2,000 as well. Part of the drop may be attributed the help the homeless and struggling families receive these day.

The Downtown Tucson Partnership is one of those groups that are helping with finding homes for the homeless.

"It's homes for the homeless," said Kathleen Eriksen, the Partnership CEO. "We have found housing for 50 homeless individuals since November 1, that's incredible."

The homeless count in Jacome Plaza next to the downtown main library was 83. Now it's 18. 

Eriksen set up a table in the Plaza with a red sign asking those in the park if they needed a home. Many responded and some found housing the same day.

"It's not just us," she said. "It's also our social service partners."

The Partnership acts as a "middleman" to find space for the homeless, a concept that has changed the image of the plaza.

"Literally, almost overnight we've been able to transform this public space into one that's safe and welcoming," she said.

Whether that continues or for how long it might last is not the point. It's that people are using the park to relax, read, eat lunch or to play games. Something that was difficult to do before they helped with the homeless effort.

"I see it as absolutely miraculous," Eriksen said.

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