Paul's Note - February 8, 2019

A member of my staff attended a special event on Thursday morning: the opening of a new house on the far east side.

The house is for Sgt. Caleb Brewer, who lost both of his legs after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan three years ago. Since getting his prosthetic legs, he’s been rock climbing, surfing and running. His life since his injuries is a tribute to perseverance.

Even so, many things around the house can pose special challenges for him. Because of that, the Gary Sinise Foundation helped Sgt. Brewer build a “smart home.” The adaptations in the home include everything from special bathroom fixtures to lights that can be controlled from an iPad. It also includes a home gym so that he can continue his recovery.

The Star ran an article on Sgt. Brewer’s story and about the many companies that put in work on the project, but I’d like to give a special shout out to Hank Krzysik. Hank is a Ward 2 resident and our appointment to the Commission on Climate Energy and Sustainability. He served as the lead architect on the project and it doesn’t surprise me at all that he was involved. He previously worked on a project for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that refurbished a home for a local family with financial issues. His other work included a solar project for Our Mother of Sorrows Church (his parish) as well as building green projects across Tucson.

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Sgt. Brewer’s story is inspiring, but also a reminder of how many veterans don’t have adequate homes or homes at all. Here in Tucson, we made a commitment to end veterans’ homelessness, and we are well on our way to that goal.

In 2013, we had an estimated 2000 homeless veterans on the streets of Tucson. That was when a cooperative effort from the City, Pima County, the Veterans Administration, faith groups and non-profits started with the aim of not reducing veteran homelessness, but making it a thing of the past.

The work has not only been putting people in housing, but arranging treatment and keeping our city’s veterans court open to put an end to recidivism. It has also included preventing evictions so that people don’t become homeless in the first place.

The latest number I saw was from late 2018, and we are down to 193. That is still 193 too many, but a tribute to the work of a lot of caring people in Tucson.

If you know a veteran that is homeless, or is in danger of losing their home, contact Primavera’s Project Action for Veterans at (520) 308-3093. They can set you up with an appointment to talk to an intake specialist.

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It’s Reunion de El Fuerte, or Ft. Lowell Day, this weekend. I lived in the area for several years and it is a very special place.

The Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood is a microcosm of Southwest history. The Hohokham, Tohono O’Odham, Spanish, Mexicans and Mormons all left their mark there one way or another. Once a year, the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association invites all of Tucson to explore this remarkable area.

Saturday’s highlights will include a cavalry demonstration, vintage baseball and a class to teach young people to make adobe. To find out more, you can visit facebook.com/fortlowellday or oldfortlowellneighborhood.org