Phoenix sandwich shop owner still feels weight of fight over Zone homeless encampment
Sep 22, 2023, 12:05 PM | Updated: 1:14 pm
(Facebook Photo/Old Station Subs)
PHOENIX — The longtime owner of a downtown Phoenix sandwich shop near the Zone homeless encampment is still feeling the weight of a four-year battle even though the city finally was ordered to finish the job of cleaning up the area.
“It’s still hard. There’s still a long road to go, you know,” Joe Faillace told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Thursday, a day after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered Phoenix to abate the public nuisance of the Zone by Nov. 4.
Faillace has owned Old Station Subs at Jefferson Street and 13th Avenue for nearly four decades. The restaurant is a block away from the Human Services Campus, a collaboration of partner organizations at 12th Avenue and Madison Street that provide services to people experiencing homelessness.
When did Phoenix’s Zone homeless encampment start?
Faillace said a tent city started taking root in the area in November 2019.
“It’s been so depressing and … just such a mental stress on all our neighbors. … It’s been hard to have a good attitude. It’s been hard to come to work,” he said.
Faillace said the city’s response over the years has been disheartening.
“It’s sad for the homeless people. It’s sad that the city made us go through this for four years, because we went to so many meetings and we tried to get help and … this just never happened,” the sandwich shop owner said.
“And it costs hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the city lost. Who pays for that? All of us.”
Faillace and other area business owners and residents sued the city last year for failing to properly maintain the area and enforce laws there.
“The crime, the defecation, the urination, the drugs, the prostitution, the muscle, the vulnerable being abused,” he said while describing the situation.
In March of this year, Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney ordered the city to devise a plan to clean up the Zone and carry it out as soon as possible.
Phoenix faces dueling lawsuits over homeless situation
Phoenix officials have been constrained somewhat by rulings in another lawsuit, one filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union accusing the city of violating the civil rights of the Zone’s unsheltered residents.
The judge in that federal case 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.
The injunction did not prohibit enhanced cleanup operations as long as the city followed the terms of the order.
What has city been doing to clean up Zone?
On May 10, the city and partner agencies started clearing out the Zone one block a time. Every few weeks, they moved campers off another block while offering space in shelters.
On Wednesday, more than four months later, Blaney ruled that Phoenix has had enough time and gave the city 45 days to finish the job.
Faillace said he’s seen mixed results from the city’s efforts so far.
“They have cleaned it up a little bit. There’s some streets that are a lot better. My street is better,” the sandwich shop owner said.
“But there’s still a tremendous amount of people down here. They’re still walking around. They’re still talking to themselves. They’re still fighting with themselves.”