Phoenix homeless shelters facing challenges after judge rules ‘The Zone’ must go

The city of Phoenix has been ordered to clean up what a judge is calling a public nuisance.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 4:34 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Maricopa County judge has ordered the city of Phoenix to clean up The Zone, an encampment home to approximately 800 people. However, now that the city is forced to clean up the encampment and tents, where do they all go?

“The city of Phoenix essentially has been operating their own sort of open air homeless shelter in the streets of Phoenix. A shelter where you are not required to obey the law,” said Tim Sandefur, the vice president for legal affairs at the Goldwater Institute.

Multiple blocks filled with hundreds of tents and home to violent crimes will be gone. The city of Phoenix has been ordered to clean up what a judge is calling a public nuisance. “It is the first step in telling the city that it no longer has any excuse to not enforce the law and for failing to take action to clean up The Zone,” said Sandefur.

He believes this is a huge win for everyone involved. “It’s no wonder that businesses, who, after all, pay the taxes that are supposed to be going towards providing them with public safety, have said that they will not be putting up with this anymore. There’s open urination and defecation into the gutters and onto people’s property that is damaging the property, scaring away their customers, and threatening the safety of their employees,” Sandefur explained.

But what happens now? How will they do it? “Currently, there are not enough beds for every person in the encampments,” said Lisa Glow, the CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, who works with the city. Glow says the city could create designated campground encampments with security in addition to added shelters. “The challenge is how quickly that can happen,” she said.

She says getting everyone off the streets will be hard but not impossible. “There are folks like you said that are not interested in coming inside to shelter and housing yet. It can take a lot of outreach. The city of Phoenix is funding more street outreach to cajole people and support them to eventually come off the streets,” Glow explained.

The city must provide proof of their work and evidence of their results in compliance with this order at a bench trial on July 10, 2023.