New Phoenix ordinance bans urban camping near schools, parks, shelters and day cares

May 30, 2024, 7:25 AM | Updated: 7:31 am

Street camping in Phoenix limited with passing of ordinance...

People experiencing homelessness will no longer be able to sleep or camp near schools, day care centers, city parks and shelters in Phoenix on Sept. 1. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Street camping in Phoenix is no longer allowed within 500 feet of schools, shelters, parks and day cares.

That’s because the Phoenix City Council unanimously voted to ban urban encampments in these areas on Wednesday. Once the law goes into effect on Sept. 1, people who violate the law will face a $100 fine for the class 3 misdemeanor.

Phoenix District 1 Councilwoman Ann O’Brien introduced the ordinance. Before the final vote, she said several Californian cities have passed similar laws.

“Cities from California, from Los Angeles to San Diego, have implemented similar ordinances for the purposes of protecting vulnerable populations,” O’Brien said.

That’s what this ordinance is for, she added.

“It’s so that no child must walk past a line of tents on their way to school or play in a playground with tents pressed up against their school fence,” O’Brien said. “It’s so our community members can feel safer going to their parks and so those who are receiving services have a higher chance of success by not being surrounded by those encampments.”

This ordinance can also help parents from communities along the Interstate 17 corridor who worry about their children walking to school or going to day care, she added.

“I was told stories of encampments along sidewalks leading up to schools and crowds of folks openly doing drugs at parking lots of day cares,” O’Brien said.

City leaders say limit on street camping in Phoenix will help community

The passing of this new ordinance expands the city’s previous urban camping law, which only applied to parks, city buildings and parking lots.

Various city leaders said the purpose of the ordinance is to encourage people experiencing homelessness to access available services. Essentially, they framed it as a helpful measure rather than a punitive one.

Gina Montes, the deputy city manager, said this measure could also help keep people indoors during dangerously high temperatures. Maricopa County recorded 645 heat-related deaths in 2023.

“The more opportunities we have to encourage people experiencing homelessness to come indoors, whether that’s a shelter or a heat respite sites, the more we help to reduce the number of heat-related deaths and illnesses in the community,” Montes said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Phoenix District 2 Councilman Jim Waring added that this ordinance could encourage people to feel safe when visiting parks or the light rail system.

“We’ve had incidences, apparently, with mothers taking kids to parks and finding a dead body,” Waring said. “We can’t allow that to go on, so, ultimately, it’s not even a question of what’s right and wrong. We simply can’t have people living the way they’re living.”

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New Phoenix ordinance bans urban camping near schools, parks, shelters and day cares