City sets new rules for homeless encampment downtown

2014-01-24T14:00:00Z 2014-01-24T15:53:47Z City sets new rules for homeless encampment downtownBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The city has set up some new rules for the homeless camp at Veinte de Agosto Park downtown.

After a meeting with city officials Thursday, homeless people who have been hanging out at the park will no longer be allowed to sleep in the picnic-table areas nor on the steps on the east end of the park, Tucson Police Capt. Jim Webb said. The small park is on North Church Avenue between West Broadway and West Congress Street, known for its statue of Pancho Villa on horseback.

The new rules also prohibit individuals from bringing more items than a sleeping bag and water bottle at night.

Webb said there will be no effort to keep people from sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk, provided they are exercising their First Amendment rights and leave at least 5 feet of space for others to pass.

The sidewalk is about 12 feet wide.

As for how TPD will determine whether someone is at the park on principled grounds, Webb said officers will give users the benefit of the doubt.

“Most of them have a small cardboard sign written about the cause, so we’re going to make the assumption they’re exercising their First Amendment rights,” Webb said.

On Thursday afternoon, officers told people at the park that enforcement of the rules would begin 24 hours after the notice.

The homeless camp, with its up to 50 residents and assorted boxes of belongings, attracted police attention after complaints of aggressive panhandling and unruliness.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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