City of Phoenix ordered to clean up homeless encampment

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A judge has ordered the city of Phoenix to clean up a homeless encampment known as ‘The Zone,’ near 12th Avenue and Madison Street. The order comes after local businesses and residents filed a suit against the city for allowing the area to become what the judge described as “a public nuisance.” Stacey Champion, a long-time community advocate, joined Ted to discuss the issue.

Champion noted that ‘The Zone’ includes about 10 blocks from Seventh Avenue to 15th Avenue. There are over 1,000 unhoused residents that live on the street in ‘The Zone.’ The area also encompasses many human services resources like Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS). Champion, who has been volunteering for 15 years, says the encampment is growing progressively larger.

“There was a time, not too many years ago, where I could go out there and put something in every person’s hand,” said Champion. “You can really really track [growth] to our rise in rents here.”

According to Champion, the ‘The Zone’ is the result of the city, the county and the state not addressing pressing issues including affordable housing, the fentanyl crisis and high eviction rates among others.

“You have just kind of the perfect storm for a lot of folks, and also a lot of seniors on fixed incomes, who are strait up being priced out of housing,” said Champion. “And it has gotten out of control.”

The parties that filed the suit say the unhoused are preventing them from making a living as the tents block entrances and also the unsanitary conditions are a health hazard. The judge’s order states that the city must maintain the public property in the area such as sidewalks which must be free of tents and similar structures. Phoenix was also ordered to remove biohazardous materials such as human waste and drug needles.

The judge ruled that the city must devise a plan to comply and show results by July 10.

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