TEMPE, Ariz. — In a couple of days, Crystal will be without a home again.
For the last seven years, a tent sitting on the riverbed east of Tempe Town Lake has been her home.
“I'm comfortable here,” Crystal said. "It’s a community, we all know each other down here.”
Crystal and other unsheltered people have lived in the riverbed for years. She says the number of people has grown as trespassing violations forced homeless people out of the city's nearby parks and into the riverbeds.
Soon, trespassing violations are likely to force them out of the riverbed.
On Thursday, the city will begin enforcing trespassing violations in the area.
“Why all of a sudden is it a safety hazard when we’ve been down here for years and years?” Crystal asked.
City officials say recent floods and fires in the areas have pushed them to begin enforcing the trespassing violations.
“The city has identified this area as a health and safety concern because of the hazards with the river bottom," said Paul Bentley, Tempe's deputy human services director.
The city has set up a resource area for homeless people impacted to talk with resource providers. Bentley said the goal is to get people living in the river bottom into better situations.
Tempe says the services they are offering include: replacing IDs, working with the city’s housing navigator to try and find permanent housing, reconnecting people with their family members, helping to reconnect a person with their mental health provider, connections to medical care, and job training.
“The city’s goal is to end homelessness," Bentley said. "What we mean by that is to make it rare, brief, and one time.”
That includes potential temporary homes. However, the city says the number of available beds in Tempe is in short supply.
“We [currently] have about 16 to 20 beds that are within the city of Tempe,” Bentley said.
The city says they have partners in other cities that could handle excess folks.
However, homeless advocates believe charging folks with trespassing may not be legal.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled cities could not enforce anti-camping laws if the city did not have enough homeless shelter beds to house the homeless population.
In an email, the city says the ruling does not apply because the homeless people will be charged with trespassing and not urban camping.
"It’s all a show for the community," Crystal said.
Some unsheltered people, like Crystal, do not believe the resources available will lead to long-term solutions.
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