For many homeless people and veterans in the community, there really is no home for the holidays, but there is still time to share seasonal cheer through several local nonprofits.
The Primavera Foundation is offering opportunities for Tucsonans to support homeless neighbors through its Annual Homeless Memorial in conjunction with National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Evergreen Cemetery county plot, 3105 N. Oracle Road, at the northwest corner of the cemetery.
Since Jan. 1, 156 people have died while homeless; seven of those were veterans, according to the Pima County Public Fiduciary. Additionally, 132 undocumented immigrants died in the Arizona desert, according to the Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner.
“This is a really important event to remember those who have passed away. It provides a lot of dignity and support for folks who have lost their lives in extreme poverty or when they are experiencing homelessness,” said Maritza Broce, a member of the board of directors for Primavera, who will speak at the event.
Broce said the fact the memorial is held on the first day of winter is no coincidence.
“We can’t remind the community enough that there is tremendous need for winter survival kits. People are really caught unprepared when they are experiencing homelessness since they have no place to put their belongings ,” said Broce, who also aids in the effort through her shop, Preloved Chica Clothing at 102 E. 31st St. in South Tucson.
Preloved Chica Clothing is a resale boutique that accepts items on donation and offers affordable clothing, accessories and household decor. It also provides free clothing to those in need.
“We have a generous community that donates all of the items. In addition to resale, we can give away free clothing to families in emergencies or folks who walk in off the street and need shoes,” Broce said.
A transplant from Kansas who came to Tucson as a student at the University of Arizona in 1993, Broce settled in South Tucson and opened her boutique there because of the small-town feel.
“I really love the city of South Tucson. It is a community within a community and everyone knows everyone. People really look out for each other and there is strong community involvement,” she said.
Broce is optimistic about the growing level of participation in social issues she has witnessed throughout the community.
“Lots of folks are becoming really active on social-justice issues. I really see the support growing and volunteer bases doing economic-justice work in the community, so I know that the community wants solutions to homelessness and other issues related to poverty. It is just a matter of us continuing to gain a voice and listen to the folks who are most affected by these issues.”
Veterans comprise a segment of the population often impacted by both homelessness and poverty, says Norma Aguilar, senior contract specialist with Primavera’s Project Action for Veterans.
Project Action is working to provide housing-support services and temporary financial assistance with rent, utilities and transportation for veterans and veteran families that are facing eviction or homelessness. The program, which helped 229 veterans last year, also provides job-training assistance and support with health care and legal services, financial planning, income support and other benefits.
Aguilar said the program is significant to the well-being of veterans and the community.
“Getting people off of the streets has a big impact on their health; when people come off of the streets there are fewer visits to emergency rooms and they become healthier,” Aguilar said.
Marshall Home for men
As one of Tucson’s only nonprofit personal-care facilities for elderly men with limited means, The Marshall Home for Men has been addressing housing concerns of veterans for more than eight decades.
The facility provides private or semi-private rooms along with three meals a day and snacks, housekeeping, laundry, 24/7 supervision, assistance with medications, transportation to medical appointments and other services.
It currently houses 52 clients, 90 percent of whom are veterans, according to director Joe Cimino.
“Our biggest problem is that most people don’t know we exist, even though we have been around for almost 90 years. We struggle constantly financially because the majority of our men can’t pay the rent, even though the rent is one-third of that in most assisted-living facilities. We make up that difference with donations from the community,” Cimino said.
Cimino says clients include veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War.
“We have men who won Bronze Stars and Silver Stars and Purple Hearts. They are true war heroes who are kind of forgotten now. Basically this is their home and they can stay as long as we can take care of them, and the majority can remain independent longer because of the care they receive,” he said.