Phoenix homeowner issued code violation for tarp to help homeless couple

A Phoenix woman says she had a tarp up to help out a homeless couple and then the city cited her.
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 5:36 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A homeowner said she was given a notice of an ordinance violation for having a blue tarp on her porch, but she says it was to provide shade for a homeless couple who is temporarily staying there. Liza Kurtz moved into her home near downtown Phoenix in mid-April. The previous owner had been working on the house for about a year and allowed a well-known homeless couple in the neighborhood to stay on the porch while the house was empty for a few months.

“They asked them to stay on the porch and keep an eye on the place. They said when the new owner comes in, they’ll probably ask you to move on,” explained Kurtz.

But Kurtz said she got to know the couple during the move-in process and couldn’t imagine having them leave. “We knew if we moved them on from here, the next place they go is under a bridge or a public park or somewhere that is a lot less safe in the summer,” said Kurtz. “At this point, we consider them kind of informal roommates. So they have keys, they have access to the bathroom, to the laundry, to the kitchen. The only thing we don’t really have for them is an extra bedroom.”

Last week, the couple put up a tarp to block the hot sun and provide some shade. However, the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department then issued Kurtz a notice of an ordinance violation. “It was just saying, visible tarps are against ordinance and that it needs to be removed,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz happens to be a Ph.D. student working on heat and health in the City of Phoenix. She said she was taken aback to get the notice. She said she knows the city is working to protect unsheltered people during the summer heat, but there is a different set of competing needs surrounding neighborhood beautification. “I was literally like, OK, there’s (sic) these two separate systems that are interacting and touching and they’re in conflict with one another. What can we do to resolve that and get on the same page? It seemed to open up this larger need for dialogue around, OK, what are the alternatives? How do we get a unified response? Not just from the city but even from the community,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz said she has been in touch with the Neighborhood Services Department and explained the situation. She’s grateful to have turned what initially seemed like a negative situation into a positive one.

The City of Phoenix released this statement to Arizona’s Family about the situation:

“The Neighborhood Services Department has engaged with the City’s Homeless Services Division to explore options for services and resources that may be offered to the unsheltered individuals in partnership with the owner of the property. One of the goals of the City’s code enforcement process is to achieve voluntary compliance by working with property owners to address violations without getting to a citation, whenever possible. We appreciate residents who are responsive to notices, as well as residents who want to partner to provide support and solutions to the growing homeless crisis. This property owner has shown initiative and compassion, and we believe that by working together the violations can be addressed without the need to issue a citation.”

Now, her unhoused neighbors are being connected with resources and are even actively interviewing for jobs. “That’s really only been able to happen because they have somewhere to shower, they have somewhere to go do laundry, they have a safe place to leave their stuff that’s not on the street and it’ll be there when they get back,” Kurtz said. “Sometimes all people need is that little respite, that little nudge.”

For a list of resources for people experiencing homelessness in the City of Phoenix, click here.