‘The Zone’ cleanup is complete

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The City of Phoenix had until November 4 to clean up the area known as The Zone, an unhoused encampment area. The Zone was officially cleared last week.

Rachel Milne, Director of the City of Phoenix Office of Homeless Solutions, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss more details.

“We started on May 10 with the first block that we closed to camping and we subsequently closed all 15 blocks where there were individuals camping in that area,” Milne said.

The Zone was an area from 15th Avenue to 7th Avenue, Jefferson down to the railroad tracks. It is the area right outside of the Human Services Campus.

Businesses sued the city demanding the 15-block area be cleaned up as their businesses were suffering and it was a health hazard. A judge ruled the city had to clean up and move the unhoused by November 4. Nearly one thousand people were living in The Zone.

Milne reports that some of the people they encountered when working to clear The Zone had been living there for years. The encampment there had grown significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but people have been camping in that area for over a decade.

Milne and her team engaged with more than 700 individuals while clearing The Zone.

Workers sent unhoused people living in the encampment to shelters or to a campground that is being built near 15th Avenue and Jefferson. That campground, when completed, will have 200 spaces, showers, bathrooms and shade. It will also have caseworkers to help the unhoused.

“To make sure it stays clean, we are doing a number of things,” Milne said. “My team at the Office of Homeless Solutions is proactively going out to engage with people who might not know that the area is closed or who might still be in the area. We’ve posted signs so that everyone knows the blocks that are closed to camping.”

Milne said that our region is seeing an increased number of people experiencing homelessness.

“We as a city and a region have increased the number of shelters, but we know that shelter doesn’t end someone’s homelessness,” Milne said.

Rachel Milne, Director, City of Phoenix Office of Homeless Solutions

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