Court gives Phoenix 45-day deadline to clean up The Zone homeless encampment

Sep 20, 2023, 4:24 PM | Updated: 6:37 pm

PHOENIX — A judge ruled Wednesday that the city of Phoenix must abate the public nuisance of The Zone homeless encampment near downtown by Nov. 4.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney again sided with business owners and residents, granting them relief and tasking Phoenix with finishing clean up of the encampment in 45 days.

The ruling added that Phoenix has had ample time to clear the area. The city started clearing The Zone May 10.

The Zone refers to the area surrounding the Human Services Campus, a collaboration of partner organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness at 12th Avenue and Madison Street.

“The Court therefore finds little merit to any argument that a 45-day deadline does not allow sufficient time for the city to complete the clean-up,” the ruling said.

The city of Phoenix gave KTAR News 92.3 FM the following response to the ruling:

“The City of Phoenix is disappointed with the Court’s ruling. The City is addressing the area around the Human Services Campus strategically, one block at a time to ensure we can offer every individual we engage with shelter. The City is reviewing the Court’s ruling and exploring legal options.”

What does Phoenix have to show in The Zone by the deadline?

A hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30, where Phoenix will have to show it complied with Wednesday’s order.

Phoenix’s plan has been 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.

Here’s what the order says Phoenix has to do by the deadline:

  • No tents and other makeshift structures in the public rights of way.
  • No biohazardous materials, including human feces and urine, drug paraphernalia and other trash.
  • No individuals committing offenses against the public order.

Why is Phoenix cleaning up The Zone?

A March 27 order concluded Phoenix had stopped enforcing certain laws in the area and required the city to lessen the public nuisance.

Blaney found that while the city was following a law against criminalizing public camping, it arbitrarily enforced others despite health and safety risks. Those who filed the lawsuit described having to witness drug activity, lewd acts and other criminal activity in front of their door or steps away from their property.

Like several other major cities, Phoenix has had to balance the concerns of employers and homeowners with respecting the rights of homeless people.

In 2019, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said homeless people can’t be punished for sleeping outside if they have nowhere else to go.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Court gives Phoenix 45-day deadline to clean up The Zone homeless encampment