Gilbert has not officially declared war on homeless people like Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Scottsdale have.

Tree houses homeless in Gilbert By Beth Lucas, Tribune February 5, 2006

A makeshift Gilbert home nestled inside a 100-yearold tree has caught the eye of a concerned community.

A tent and rags line the inside of the giant tree on an empty lot at the southeast corner of Baseline and Greenfield roads.

Branches sweep toward the ground as if to create walls that residents of Greenfield Park homeowners association say have attracted at least one homeless man.

Grocery carts are parked near the tree, with sleeping bags bundled around. Its filled with clothes and a kerosene lamp.

One homeless man, nearby residents said, is seen in the neighborhood asking for handouts and has lived in the tree for nearly a year.

Some say its heart-wrenching to see such poverty. Others express concern that Pioneer Elementary School is just down the block, in a neighborhood filled with children.

It hurts your heart a little bit to see, Greenfield Park resident Barbara Cafaro said. Theyre probably harmless. But you just dont know what if a kid went back there exploring? I have grandchildren here.

Martha Kelley, whose backyard faces the lot, called police last October after her kids told her they were worried about a homeless man. She said she is less concerned this year because the elementary school put up a fence blocking kids from using the lot when walking to or from school.

There was no barrier to anyone coming across, she said. Now that theyve done that, kids who do go to school probably feel safer.

She added that the residents of the tree probably wont cause a problem and that impending development should drive them out.

The situation caught the eye of Mayor Steve Berman, who recently surveyed the land with its developer, who plans to build a bank on the lot. There was nobody there to kick out, he said.

A U.S. Census Bureau search in September found evidence that someone lives in the tree, but was unable to locate anyone. Police report there are six known homeless people who stay overnight in Gilbert in a variety of locations, including in large plants along railroad tracks.

Police Lt. Joe Ruet said because the tree is on private property, theres nothing the police can do unless the lots owner calls to complain. No trespassing signs are posted.

Like neighboring Chandler, Gilbert has no laws against homeless camping, which are now in effect in Tempe, Mesa and Scottsdale.

Gilbert Town Manager George Pettit said a few years ago a similar home was built in a tree at Guadalupe and Gilbert roads.

The property owner recognized the issue and tore up the tree, Pettit said.

Contact Beth Lucas by email, or phone (480) 898-6373

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