Phoenix provides update on those relocated when Zone homeless encampment was cleared

Dec 22, 2023, 2:30 PM

PHOENIX — City officials and partners offered shelter to more than 700 people while clearing out The Zone homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix this year.

Of the 718 individuals who had to relocate from the area, about 56% were sheltered at the end of November, the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions announced last week.

The city said in a Dec. 12 update that 128 people, about 18% of the total, turned down offers during the nearly six-month cleanup effort.

Of those who accepted help, 68% were still receiving services in a shelter or treatment facility or were housed at the end of November, the city said.

Phoenix Homeless Solutions director lauds effort

Rachel Milne, Phoenix’s Homeless Solutions director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday that her department accomplished significant achievements in 2023, with cleanup of The Zone at the top of the list.

“Our efforts from May to November to really work with every single individual and connect with them and find out what their needs were and help them move to a safer indoor place is one of the things we look back on this year,” she said.

“It was a huge effort and we had the right people out there doing that work, not only from the city side but our partners, as well.”

What was The Zone homeless encampment and why was it cleared?

The Zone was the name used to describe the homeless encampment that overtook 15 blocks around the Human Services Campus (HSC) at 12th Avenue and Madison Street. The HSC is a collaboration of partner organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness.

Neighborhood residents and businesses sued the city for ignoring its responsibilities to maintain the area and enforce laws there. A judge in the case ordered the cleanup in March.

The city and its partners started the engagement on May 10 and covered one block at a time every few weeks. The work was completed Nov. 1.

The process involved offering indoor space, cleaning up the debris and preventing anyone from camping on the cleared areas. Arrangements were made to store property that people wanted to keep but couldn’t transport immediately.

Shelter space is key piece to homelessness puzzle

Officials made sure they had enough open shelter space to accommodate everyone camping on a block before clearing it.

Milne gave credit to the city and City Council for working to make enough beds available at both permanent and temporary facilities.

“Shelter doesn’t end homelessness. We need it, it’s essential — it’s especially essential in our in our climate — but it doesn’t end someone’s homelessness,” she said.

“So, we need those support services in the shelters to help people exit quickly, and then we also need to … slow the inflow of people coming into our homeless service system.”

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

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Phoenix provides update on those relocated when Zone homeless encampment was cleared