What’s next for those who were living in The Zone homeless encampment in Phoenix?

Nov 6, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:05 am

man holds his dog inside a Phoenix cooling center...

As the last of the individuals who were living in "The Zone" homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix were connected to services or placed in temporary housing in early November 2023, some wonder if their new path will be sustainable. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Almost a week after Phoenix city officials cleared out the homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix known as “The Zone,” the streets are empty, the unsheltered have been housed and court orders have been met.

But it begs the question: Will this new, multifaceted approach be sustainable?

Since Phoenix officials began clearing out tents and other makeshift structures in May, at least 718 people were offered services, according to a press release. Of them, 585 (81%) accepted placement at a temporary indoor shelter.

“Our goal now is to work with those 80% that have accepted shelter, find out where they are now. Are they still in the shelter? Have they ended their homelessness? Have they returned to homelessness?” Rachel Milne, Office of Homeless Solutions director, said in a Facebook post Friday.

At least 21 others opted to move to the Safe Outdoor Space, where individuals who aren’t ready to move indoors can stay. Individuals with certain “barriers,” such as pets, chose to stay at the site, Milne said. The remaining others went elsewhere.

“We need to really focus on those 20% who did not accept shelter services right now. We still want to work for them, we want to find the solution that’s best for them,” Milne said.

The city increased its efforts to find unsheltered individuals housing after a Maricopa County judge ordered a complete clean-up of The Zone in October. To combat the affordable housing issue, Phoenix and its partners in that month alone added 362 temporary shelter beds, while it prepared to supply 790 new shelter beds.

Moving forward, what will “The Zone” look like?

With the area being completely cleared, city officials may need to occasionally enforce the rules.

If individuals are found camping on the streets, they’ll either be connected to proper services or cited/arrested.

“Obviously we want to maintain this area. We’ve worked really hard to close it down, but homelessness is not just contained to the area around the Human Services campus,” Milne said.

“It’s city-wide, it’s region-wide, so we really need to address homelessness where it is and help people throughout the areas of the city connect with the services that are going to help them end their homelessness.”

As for individuals staying in temporary shelter beds and at the Safe Outdoor Space, the city will continue working to getting them onto a path to ending their homelessness.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair contributed to this story.

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What’s next for those who were living in The Zone homeless encampment in Phoenix?