2nd block cleared out in Phoenix’s Zone homeless encampment

May 31, 2023, 2:08 PM | Updated: Jun 1, 2023, 6:18 am

PHOENIX – A second block at the Zone homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix was cleared Wednesday as enhanced cleanup operations continue.

City staff and partner agencies set their sights on the stretch of 12th Avenue between Washington and Jefferson streets three weeks after clearing off a block of Ninth Avenue.

“We’re repeating the same model as last time, working with people more than two weeks ahead of the operation and having the ability to offer everybody a shelter space,” said Scott Hall, deputy director of the Phoenix Office of Homeless Solutions.

The city said 32 of the 43 people engaged on 12th Avenue accepted services. A man who refused to leave was arrested after allegedly threatening an outreach worker with a knife.

Hall said some adjustments were made Wednesday based on what was learned when Ninth Avenue between Washington and Jefferson streets was cleared May 10. For example, he said intakes were completed at the shelters instead of in the field.

“We just wanted to get more efficient and take a little bit of the stress off the individual that’s taking the placement,” he said.

Hall said nobody has set up new camps on Ninth Avenue since it was cleared three weeks ago.

“People just have not come back to the area, and we’re very grateful for that,” he said. “People understand what we’re trying to achieve.”

Phoenix officials find themselves stuck between two court cases when it comes to the homeless encampment in the area around the Human Services Campus, a collaboration of partner organizations that provide services to unsheltered individuals at 12th Avenue and Madison Street.

In response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU last year, a federal judge issued an order in December prohibiting the city from enforcing sleeping and camping bans on anyone in the Zone who can’t obtain a shelter bed. The city was also told it couldn’t destroy property seized during cleanup efforts without first holding it in a secure location for 30 days.

In March, the Maricopa County Superior Court judge in a lawsuit filed on behalf of area residents and business owners ordered the city to devise a plan to clean up the Zone and carry it out as soon as possible.

The city’s solution is 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. At the current pace, the process will take months to complete.

The city has programs to store property that people want to keep but can’t readily transport.

Hall said it will probably be another three weeks until the next block gets cleared.

“That’s been a good pace to have the right amount of resources and to have the opportunity to work with people during that time ahead of the operation,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair and Shira Tanzer contributed to this report.

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2nd block cleared out in Phoenix’s Zone homeless encampment