Phoenix starts clearing out 'The Zone,' one of the nation's largest homeless camps
Nearby owners and residences sued the city of Phoenix, claiming that the city was causing “irreparable harm” by allowing the encampment to keep growing
May 11, 2023 8:59am
Updated: May 11, 2023 8:59am
The City of Phoenix began clearing out one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments, known as “The Zone,” located in downtown on Wednesday morning.
Last year, nearby owners and residences sued the city of Phoenix, claiming that the city was causing “irreparable harm” by allowing the encampment to keep growing. According to the plaintiffs, people in the encampment are known to use drugs and commit acts of violence and property damage.
In March, a Maricopa County court judge ordered the city to clear up the encampment, where more than 800 unhoused people can be found sleeping there every night. According to Superior Court judge Scott Blaney, the city had intentionally stopped enforcing "criminal, health, and other quality of life statutes and ordinances," leading to lawlessness in The Zone.
The city is working to clear up one block at a time beginning this week until July 10, the deadline set by Blaney. This week the city already removed around 35 individuals from the encampment, threatening to have them arrested or cited if they don’t move. The homeless will also be prevented from returning to the camp.
The city will most likely be required to find some sort of temporary housing for the hundreds of people who will be cleared from the area. While emergency shelter beds exist in the city, they are constantly filled up every night. Judge Blaney suggested that the city should create sanctioned camping areas on city land to address the problem.
"I don't think it's as simple as finding a city-owned lot and moving people," said Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari, adding that such a measure would need an “unprecedented amount of resources.”
The number of homeless people in Phoenix has significantly increased over the past ten years, from 771 in 2014 to 3,096 in 2022, according to city statistics.