Progress on the Zone cleanup in Phoenix is steady but slow, official says

Jul 26, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: 1:01 pm

Homeless person offered shelter services during the cleanup of the zone...

(Getty Images/Human Services Campus photos)

(Getty Images/Human Services Campus photos)

PHOENIX — In downtown Phoenix, progress is slow but steady as city officials scour the streets where the Zone homeless encampment has grown over the years.

Block by block, officials, nonprofit organizations and businesses are trying to help connect unsheltered individuals to services that provide ample resources and promote sustainability.

Of the 184 individuals that city officials have worked with during cleanup days to help get them into indoor spaces, 37 denied accepting such services, Director of Phoenix’s Office of Homeless Solutions Rachel Milne told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

“At the end of next week, we’ll be at six total blocks. We do have work to do, but it does take a lot of coordination to get one of these efforts scheduled, get all of the shelter and resources available to offer people indoor places to go,” Milne said.

“But we’ve been really happy with the success that we’ve seen so far … there are a lot more people out there that do need help.”

The cleaning process was described as one where city officials clean the streets one block at a time, with individuals living within the Zone told they have two weeks before they will either opt to move to an indoor shelter or relocate elsewhere.

“We work with almost every shelter in the Valley to see what their capacity is, what they’ll be able to help with, what they’ll be able to bring to the table,” Milne said.

“And actually, a lot of them come to the events that day and transport folks directly, themselves … but it does take a little bit of time to get that coordination.

What’s on the horizon for unsheltered individuals in Phoenix?

For unsheltered individuals insistent on picking up their camp and relocating more or less a few blocks down the street, Milne said another solution outside of getting them into indoor spaces could soon become available.

“Eventually, we will be opening in the next few months what we’re calling a ‘safe outdoor space,'” she said.

Milne described the space, which will operate as referral-only, as one where individuals who aren’t ready for indoor spaces can camp outside safely with some on-site services.

“If they choose not to go into an indoor location, they can be referred over to the safe outdoor spaces. So those are the only folks that can go into that location at this point,” Milne said.

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Progress on the Zone cleanup in Phoenix is steady but slow, official says