Homeless veterans living in makeshift shelters and tents on land owned held by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) are being offered a helping hand. Up to 30 people, many of them veterans, were almost forcibly removed from the area after ADOT erected large warning signs telling the veterans there that they were violating state law. A visit by officials from the State Department of Veterans’ Services and Department of Economic Security has spurred action to allow the veterans to remain in the area until they wish to leave, while also offering assistance in finding stable housing and employment.
ADOT Spokesperson, Timothy Tait, has confirmed that ADOT has no intention of removing anyone from the area. He told reporters:
“The state of Arizona’s goal is assisting the veterans and other individuals in this area, located near Loop 202 and McKellips, by helping them find shelter and other community-based services. No one has been removed, and there are no plans to do so.”
The camp is the brainchild of founder Lewis Arthur. Arthur created the camp in Mesa, and two others in the state of Arizona, as an outreach program named Veterans on Patrol. The camps are populated and run by veterans. Their goal is to help ease the transition from military life to civilian life for veterans who are struggling with PTSD and other issues. The camps are also open to non-veterans. However, a many of the members have prior military service. Arthur states that his camp caters to individuals who can’t be helped by the traditional system,” he told reporters:
“We just want to be left alone and let us take care of the guys that the system can’t reach. There’s a job to be done with these people and we’re very good at it.”
Arthur and Joe Labuda, one of the camps “commanders,” state that the camp has received strong support from the community. Police and fire officials have been called to the camp by some unsupportive community members, but these calls have only led to positive interactions. Some of the officers who have been called to the site make regular return visits to drop off food and supplies to the veterans and other members.
DES officials reportedly went “tent to tent” to meet with all members of the camp on Monday, Arthur confirmed. He hopes to arrange further meetings with state officials to set up additional counseling and supportive services for camp members with severe cases of PTSD and other issues.