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Mar 10, 2014 12:07 AM by Nathan O'Neal

Downtown business says homeless camp brings problems despite city crackdown

TUCSON - A homeless encampment downtown is stirring trouble for business owners in the area who want a safe environment for customers.

The city recently cracked down on people camping out at Veinte de Agosto Park. City ordinance dictates that the homeless can sleep on the sidewalk but are barred from staying overnight on the grass.

Nathan Hauser manages a Subway just steps away from the public space commonly referred to a "Safe Park."

Hauser has seen downtown transform over the past few years throughout the effort to revitalized the district. The homeless encampment, Hauser said, is counterproductive.

"I have had a few assaults that I have had to handle --get the cops involved on that," Hauser told News 4 Tucson.

It's a situation that presents a lot of problems for Hauser's business and his potential customers. One major problem Hauser notes is the lack of sanitation.

"They use it as a restroom... so we do have to watch out for the landmines that are out there," he said.

Jon McLane is the founder of "Safe Park" and insists that many of the people living at the park are not there by choice.

"Just like those business owners and merchants have rights, homeless have rights as well," McLane told News 4 Tucson.

McLane said he recognizes the business owner's concerns but doesn't think they can be held responsible for every individual's actions.

"You're going to have people who want to do the right thing and people who don't -- so the best that we can do is put the tools in their path so they can make the right decision if they want to," he said.

As for Hauser, he wants Tucson to value its investments and clean up its image.

"[The park has] just been a blight to downtown. As taxpayers we spend money on the street car. We pay to maintain that grass. We pay to maintain that park so people can enjoy it and right now nobody can enjoy it," Hauser said.

However McLane said that the homeless will continue to stand strong sleeping on the sidewalk.

"Until the city either wants to create situation that is more admirable than the sidewalk or until we get to the point where we go to another park because it's just inconvenient to be here," McLane said.

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