Number of homeless vets on Tucson's streets continues to drop

Number of homeless vets on Tucson's streets continues to drop

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The number of homeless veterans on Tucson's streets has d ropped significantly in the past five years since the city was chosen to receive a federal gr ant.

When the program started, more than 2,000 vets lived on the streets of Tucson without a roof other their heads.

"Our veterans count as of last month was down to 193," said Cliff Wade, a homeless advocate and veteran's outreach specialist. "(Last year),we were at 270, 280."

Wade is working his way out of a job when it comes to veterans, but there is still much work to be done.

"We still see an influx of 50 to 60 a month," he said. "So we have house that number just to break even."

One of the reason's Tucson is popular with vets is because the city provides services like housing first.

The vets get a place to live, then social services, job training and placement.

Wade, a former homeless vet, knows the value of housing.

"I've been housed for nine years," he said. "I came to this event nine years ago as a homeless person."

That event is the biannual Veterans Resource Fair held at the Grand Luxe Hotel near Gr ant and Interstate 10.

It is usually a one-day event but in spring it will go on for three days.

The event offers veterans clothing, haircuts, housing options, pet care, employment services and legal assistance.

Helping with that legal assistance is veteran's court Judge Maria Felix, who volunteers her time.

"Our court is different because it's nothing but veterans," she said. "We look at their records and see what's going on with their cases."

Most of the time, the charges are misdemeanor cases like failure to appear or not paying fines.

"If they have warrants, then we quash them," she said. "If they want community service to reduce their fines, we'll do that."

If they've missed a court date she will set a new one in her courtroom.

Leroy Johnson, who served in the U.S. Army for 12 years, was looking for that help when he stopped by her space at the fair.

A two-time felon, he missed a court date and was concerned he might end up back in jail.

But Judge Felix quashed the warrant and offered him a new court date.

"I have a date for the 20th," he said. "I will be in her courtroom Monday at 3:30."

It's a date he said he won't miss.

Felix said most do show up and take care of their cases.

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