ARIZONA NEWS

Zone cleanup is just small part of work to combat Phoenix homelessness

May 12, 2023, 4:35 AM

PHOENIX – The high-profile cleanup of the encampment known as the Zone is just a fraction of the work being done to help people experiencing homelessness in Phoenix.

Amy Schwabenlender, CEO of the Human Services Campus (HSC), the social service facility just a few blocks from where the Zone cleanup started Wednesday, said the positive outcomes, by their nature, tend to get overshadowed.

“When we have 800, 900, a thousand people right here between Seventh Avenue and 15th Avenue, it’s suddenly very visible and everybody now seems to know about it,” Schwabenlender told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“What’s not visible are those positive success stories and the work that is happening.”

The HSC, a collaboration of 16 partner organizations that combat homelessness at 12th Avenue and Madison Street, has been providing homeless services since 2005.

“Last year we served over 12,000 unique individuals,” Schwabenlender said. “We as partners with other organizations helped over 4,400 people move into permanent housing.”

The HSC also worked to divert about 1,000 people so they could stay with family, friends or other support networks.

“They didn’t have to enter the, quote, homeless system and become chronically homeless,” she said. “We reconnected them quickly, so their episode of homelessness was short.”

“The Zone” refers to the homeless encampment that developed in the area around the HSC.

The city has been accused of ignoring its responsibility to maintain the Zone and enforce laws there. In March, the judge in a lawsuit filed on behalf of area residents and business owners ordered Phoenix officials to devise a plan to clean up the encampment and carry it out as soon as possible.

The city created a plan to move people out one block at a time with offers of shelter, clean up whatever is left behind and prevent anyone from settling back into the space. It could take several months to repeat the process over the dozen or so blocks of the Zone.

The HSC worked with the city to prepare for and carry out the first block of cleanup, which took place Wednesday on Ninth Avenue between Washington and Jefferson streets.

“Our outreach team has been engaged with the city through all the efforts over the last year or two years and leading up to today, helping to give people the information about what was going to happen, what did it mean for them, teaching them about what resources are available,” Schwabenlender said.

The first day “seems to have gone very smoothly,” Schwabenlender said.

“They did the pre-planning and they worked to have resources available for people,” she said.

“I’m optimistic that’s how they want to continue doing it, because if we don’t have the resources available for people they will walk farther west or south or north and they’ll be in another neighborhood in the city’s going to receive the same phone calls, just from different neighbors.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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Zone cleanup is just small part of work to combat Phoenix homelessness