Zone homeless encampment cleanup continues on 3rd Phoenix block
Jun 21, 2023, 1:00 PM
PHOENIX — City officials and partner groups returned to the high-profile Phoenix homeless encampment known as the Zone on Wednesday morning for a third round of enhanced cleanup operations.
The day’s efforts focused on relocating individuals living on the block of Madison Street between Eight and Ninth avenues.
“We come out, post notice two weeks ahead of time, and work with individuals over that two-week period and let them know this is the next section of street in this area where we can’t have camping,” Scott Hall, deputy director of Phoenix’s Office of Homeless Solutions, said during an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM.
Hall said 12 of the 17 people who were camping on the block accepted offers of help, some before Wednesday.
Enhanced cleanup of the Zone started May 10 on the stretch of Ninth Avenue between Washington and Jefferson. On May 31, 12th Avenue was cleared between Washington and Jefferson streets.
Hall said the goal is to continue at the pace of one block every two or three weeks to ensure that shelter space is available for everyone who has to move.
“We’ve had an indoor space to offer every individual over the last two engagements and this one as well,” he said during a press conference.
Hall said nobody is being forced accept shelter.
“That’s up to them,” he said during the press conference. “They just can’t come back in this location.”
There is no indication the Zone cleanup is causing an increase in homelessness in other communities, he added.
Hall said the city made arrangements with a variety of shelters and service providers to help the people impacted by Wednesday’s operations, including UMOM, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Human Services Campus, Community Bridges, Southwest Behavioral and Native American Connections.
Phoenix’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation and other providers were on the scene providing water on a day the temperature was expected to reach about 104 degrees.
“That’s why we do this early in the morning. … It’s cooler [to] get the things out before the traffic gets chaotic and all that stuff,” Hall told KTAR News.
“So the weather’s really nice right now, and we’re hoping to have everybody off to a better better place where they can lay their head on a pillow tonight and wake up in their own space.”
The city has been clearing the encampment one block at time by offering shelter to the people living there, cleaning up the debri and preventing anyone from camping on the cleared space. Arrangements are made to store property that people want to keep but can’t transport immediately.
The work continues while the city is the subject of court orders from two Zone-based lawsuits.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit last year to stop the city from doing sweeps of the Zone. In December, the judge in that case issued an order prohibiting the city from enforcing sleeping and camping bans on anyone unable to 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.
Earlier this year, area residents and business owners filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court accusing the city of ignoring its responsibility to maintain the Zone and enforce laws there, creating a public nuisance.
He also says enforcement has not been an issue, and previously cleared areas have remained empty. pic.twitter.com/REwlDgFA1A
— Balin Overstolz-McNair (@balin_om) June 21, 2023
Hall wouldn’t directly address pending litigation, but he said that while the cleanup won’t be finished before the trial date, he was pleased with the progress.
“We believe at the pace we’re going we’re having the outcome we hope for. … Going at this pace, making sure we can offer people indoor spaces, is our goal, and it’s working,” he told KTAR News.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair and Shira Tanzer contributed to this report.