City of Phoenix starts first phase of clearing ‘The Zone’ near downtown Phoenix

Starting today, people living in ‘The Zone’, a homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix, won’t be able to return once their block is clean.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 11:54 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The City of Phoenix is going block by block to clean up the state’s largest homeless encampment near downtown Phoenix, known as ‘The Zone.’

“Today’s our first process in the enhanced engagement opportunities where we’ve been out here for over two weeks engaging with individuals who are staying out here offering them safe indoor spaces,” Scott Hall, deputy director for Phoenix’s Office of Homeless Solutions, said. Starting today, people living in ‘The Zone’ won’t be able to return once their block is clean. The first block the city is focusing on is 9th Avenue from Jefferson to Washington.

As of 9 a.m., city staff tells Arizona’s Family 29 people who lived on this block have agreed to stay at a shelter. “There’s been pretty emotional placements today where some people have been on the street for a long time and they’re going into a safe indoor space, and they don’t have to sleep on the street tonight,” Hall added.

But there is concern that some of the people living in ‘The Zone’ don’t want to move to a shelter and would rather live on the street in another part of town. “There are people who may have been living on the street for a long period of time, and you really have to meet people where they’re at and understand they can be in crisis or need other kinds of support. They’ve probably had some kind of trauma in their life, so the key is building relationships and meeting with people on an ongoing basis so there’s a rapport and a trust built so people are ready to move into a shelter or go into some kind of housing,” Lisa Glow, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, said.

Right now, Hall says there are enough shelter beds available for everyone who has to move from the block they’re cleaning up today, but there are currently not enough beds for everyone who lives at ‘The Zone.’ Hall estimates roughly 750-760 people currently sleep here each night, a number which he says is down from what it was before.

He said it’s always been a concern that there won’t be enough crisis and emergency beds for individuals which is why the city of Phoenix has been pushing forward efforts to serve the unhoused community. Hall added that around 800 shelter beds will be added between now and 2024. The City of Phoenix plans to clean another block in two weeks and continue the process until ‘The Zone’ is cleared. Hall wouldn’t say how long he expects the entire process to take.