Clearing homeless camps from washes, storm drains is part of monsoon prep

Clearing homeless camps from washes, storm drains is part of monsoon prep
(Source: Pima Co. Flood Control)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - When it comes to preparing Pima County for the monsoon, the Pima County Regional Flood Control District crews work year-round.

Through aerial mapping and topography they're able to determine where they need to clear sediment and debris, but there's one other thing they look out for when clearing the county's washes and storm drains: the homeless.

"We almost always encounter homeless camps (during efforts to prepare washes)," said Andy Dinauer, Deputy Director of the Pima County Regional Flood Control District.

When they're aware that they'll be going into homeless camps, as they prep storm drains and washes across the county for monsoon, Pima County Flood Control workers follow the county's homeless encampment protocol, which states that it may be initiated when, "A homeless camp is established in a public waterway and poses a threat to the safety of the occupants of the camp."

Through the protocol, Pima County Flood Control workers accompanied by law enforcement officials approach the area where the homeless people are living, whether that be in county washes or storm drains, and tell them they have up to 72 hours until clean-up of the site begins.

The county's homeless encampment protocol also allows resources, for either immediate or long-term needs, to be provided for the homeless living in washes or storm drains through the Sullivan Jackson Employment Center.

"We recognize they're in a tough situation, too. If that's the best they got going on is that they're living in the river it's a tough situation for them," Dinauer said.

Cleaning up homeless encampments in an effort to prepare washes and storm drains for monsoon has become a bigger issue over the years according to Pima County Flood Control. So much so that it is spending close to $200,000 a year on camp clean-ups.

Ultimately, it helps to prepare the county's washes and storm drains for the monsoon but the damage that comes as a result of debris, including that which is a result of the homeless living in those areas, can have a domino effect.

Aside from the cost to clean up the encampments, the debris left in the washes and storm drains can ultimately result in blockages that cause flooding when monsoon rains hit.

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