Court-ordered ‘The Zone’ cleanup begins Wednesday in downtown Phoenix

People experiencing homelessness will be asked to move and not return, and some nonprofits say there may be no place for them to go.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 9:57 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A second wave of clean-up in “The Zone” is set to start on Wednesday. This comes after a court order demanding the City of Phoenix to show proof they’re making strides to clear out hundreds of people experiencing homelessness who are living in tents on the streets during a hearing on July 10.

“This is not a long-term solution. It’s a necessary step that the city is taking,” said Amy Shwabenlender, the CEO of the Human Services Campus (HSC), located on 12th Avenue and Madison Street.

Shwabenlender refers to the encampment surrounding HSC as their neighborhood, and it’s a collaborative effort of 16 organizations serving over 12,000 individuals a year. However, they only have about 900 shelter beds for overnight stays. “The Humans Services outreach team, this morning, counted 786 unsheltered people outside,” said Shwabenlender.

Once the encampment is cleared out, the city won’t allow people to return if they do not find shelter. Shwabenlender said city officials will put out ‘no camping’ signs. “We can help people take down their structures, move their possessions, help them sort through things and decide maybe what they’re willing to put in the trash versus what they’re willing to keep. We can store people’s possessions,” she said. HSC offers people three meals daily, a health and dental clinic, connections to benefits, and more. However, there are no extra beds available.

Across the street from HSC is Andre House, a hospitality center offering people in the encampment free dinners. “We provide about 500 meals each night, and that’s six nights a week,” said John Delaney, the Executive Director of Andre House. He said they also do over 2,000 loads of laundry every year and give out 6,000 sets of clothing from their clothing closet.

Delaney is unsure if the clean-up will mean more or less people to serve, but they’ll continue their work as they have for the past 40 years. “We’re just going to keep on the same mission, so we’re going to continue to offer lover and respect to everybody who comes through our doors,” said Delaney.

The City of Phoenix plans to offer people experiencing homelessness information on behavioral health resources and relocation information. “The City has taken on that task of identifying those resources for tomorrow, which that is a good part of this because the City of Phoenix is not doing what other cities have done where they go through an entire area and simply tell people you cannot be here,” said Shwabenlender.

We’re told the city plans on adding 800 shelter beds before the end of next year. Officials are expected to release more information on their action plan Wednesday morning.