Neighbors and businesses pleased with ‘The Zone’ clean-up

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Phoenix over "The Zone" say they're happy with the cleanup results but hope the city continues to work in the area.
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 10:52 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s been nearly a week since the City of Phoenix wrapped up a significant sweep of the homeless camp known as ‘The Zone.’ People who live in the area or own a business there said it became a dangerous place full of crime and drugs. Now, they’re seeing some real change.

Inside Gallery 119 on Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix, the inspiration behind Joel Coplin’s art is ‘The Zone’ that surrounds his studio. Artwork depicting the area is hung up on his studio’s walls. “This is the way it was. This is the way it looked when everybody was here,” said Coplin.

The City of Phoenix said it finished cleaning up about 15 blocks of tents and trash while helping relocate people living there on November 1st. That is a few days ahead of its court-ordered deadline on November 4th.

The order came from a judge who sided with several business owners suing the City for not doing something about the problem for years. The judge labeled the encampment ‘a public nuisance’. Coplin is one of the plaintiffs, still in disbelief at how different the area looks when he steps outside. “It’s like a science fiction movie. Like when you wake up and everybody is gone,” he said.

Just two blocks from Coplin’s studio is the owner of Old Station Sub Shop, Joseph Faillace. Faillace is also a part of the lawsuit. “We didn’t want any money. We just wanted our neighborhood back,” said Faillace. He said what he saw around his restaurant on Tuesday is a ‘miracle.’

“It’s better. It’s a lot better. It’s amazing how much the City has done because they had to do it,” said Faillace.

Faillace said he had to put up a fence around his business after finding trash, human urine, and feces on his property. He said that’s no longer a problem and has seen crews cleaning up the area around his business, something he said he’s asked the City to do for years.

However, Faillace said he’s still seeing unsheltered people hanging around the area, leaving behind trash and doing drugs.

Phoenix officials say there is still work to be done. “They City’s main effort is to have our outreach teams to go and engage with unsheltered individuals in the area first, but certainly, police is there to enforce laws,” said Rachel Milne, the Director of Homeless Solutions for the City of Phoenix.

Phoenix police officers patrolled in cars and on foot around the zone Tuesday afternoon. “But now we really need to be strategic moving forward and really helping people from falling into the homeless system and help them exit quickly as well,” said Milne.

Milne said the nearly 600 people who accepted shelter stay in different areas, not just Downtown Phoenix. We’re told the City is offering resources for mental health and helping people find jobs. Milne explained one of the biggest goals is to help unsheltered people find permanent affordable housing to prevent them from falling back into homelessness.

“(We’re) Hopeful for a good result. Hopeful that everybody gets satisfied. That the people experiencing homelessness can find a home and businesses can conduct business and residents live in peace,” said Coplin.

A court hearing is set up for November 30th to ensure the City followed through with the clean-up deadline.

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