man holding meth pipe
Don’t Confuse Meth Addiction with Homelessness 

July 17, 2022

By John Huppenthal |

I recently observed a tent camouflaged behind freeway road bushes in Chandler. Curious, I looked around the corner. I caught a man heating the bowl of a meth pipe in the act taking a deep drag. There were two men there. The second man looked in terrible shape, like a character out of Breaking Bad. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. I called 911.

Catching him in the criminal act was pivotal. Court decisions have given meth addicts a constitutional right to occupy our right of ways, defecate on our streets, and urinate on our sidewalks.

But these court decisions don’t protect criminal behavior.

I volunteered for two years at the school for the homeless. I never found one of the students to be homeless. They were sleeping on couches, in a spare bedroom, on someone’s carpet. Their families found someone, a relative, a friend, willing to be helpful. In my opinion, most people on the street don’t want to be in someone’s house. They are giving in to their drug addiction. Each one of them, willing to abide by the rules, can immediately enter a shelter. Rules are the key: shelters don’t allow drugs. Most of these people we describe as homeless are really meth addicts and should be described as such, not as homeless.

Meth addiction is a horror beyond all description. Read the case studies. One woman, after three days of smoking meth, cut off her boyfriend’s head and took it to his mother in a bucket.

Meth culture is now everywhere. Several months ago, a friend and I drove to hike Peralta Canyon. Leaving the paved roads, we noticed a man running, flapping his arms. Then, further on, we encountered 50-foot-long skid marks on a dirt road leading to a snapped barbed wire fence. Beyond the fence, in the distance, we could see a truck with an attached travel trailer.

Over the next hour, we put together the story. The man flapping his arms had been smoking meth for several days when he suffered a full-blown psychotic break. Somehow, convinced the cartel had arrived to assassinate him, he threw his cards and driver’s license down into the dirt so that the cartel could not use the magnetic strips to track him. He took off in his truck at an incredible rate of speed along with the attached trailer and another trailer behind it with his motorcycle. Driving in tight circles so that he could dodge the cartel’s bullets, his vehicles were bouncing a half foot into the air as he crossed the berms of the dirt road. His rate of speed was such that he was hitting five-inch palo verde trees, snapping them off without slowing. Losing control, he ran full blast into the barbed wire fence, snapping all three strands. He continued out into the desert hitting so many cholla that the cactus limbs piled up on the hood of his truck more than half-way to the top of the windshield. Finally, the sand of a desert wash trapped him but not before he had destroyed the economic value of all the assets he could claim in this world. As the fire fighters checked him out and the police took him away, he proclaimed to the world “I’m having a bad day.”

That’s the abyss addicts slide toward as they take communities with them.

Meth culture spreads. I encountered a gentleman taking pictures of the water retention basin a little further north. His mother, whose home and fence backs up to the water retention basin, had become fearful upon hearing noises that they were setting up camp in that retention basin. I told him to have her call police. The retention basin is completely fenced but there is plentiful evidence of addicts in discarded clothing and bedding.

All totaled, there were seven of these meth camps along Price Road, both on the Chandler side and the Tempe side.

I interviewed one of their residents. Waking him up at 10 in the morning, I offered him $30 for a 15-minute interview. He couldn’t find his glasses. Mentally fatigued from a stroke (a side-effect of meth addiction), he couldn’t last beyond a few questions. However, he did mention that both his father and his sister had died from drug addiction. His mother lives in Mesa. His age appeared to be late 40s. He couldn’t remember when he was born. This man was living in a makeshift tent in the 2 feet between the freeway sound wall and the bushes on the side of Price Road. 

One of the camps was behind an SRP power transformer at the edge of Price Road. I got a garbage bag and just started cleaning it up. I took out 40 pounds of garbage. I didn’t have it in my heart to take out their foam mattress bed, their new running shoes, or their clothes. 

I also posted my observations on a neighborhood social media platform. It attracted considerable attention and alarm as people realized how close they were to children.

All seven of these meth camps are now gone.

Unfortunately, according to an article in the Arizona Republic and their sources, there are over 3,500 of these encampments in Phoenix, destroying neighborhoods.

Be disciplined in your thinking. These are meth addicts. You can be sympathetic, empathetic and because of your sympathy and empathy, demand that they not be allowed to slide into a meth culture. They must get off the street. At least they must get off our streets. They are learning to beg and where to steal. They are engaging more people in meth culture. Somewhere, they have a friend, a father, a sister, a relative who will help them get clean. Keep them moving toward a better future.

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