The Ongoing Debate Over Homeless Encampments In Cities — Including Phoenix

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 1:44pm
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 8:35am

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homeless encampment
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
A homeless encampment built on the edge of 33rd Avenue south of Buckeye Road in Phoenix.

As volunteers spanned out across the Phoenix area this week to conduct the annual point-in-time count of the number of people experiencing homelessness that are living on the street, there's an ongoing debate over homeless encampments in cities.

In December, the United States Supreme Court upheld a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said cities cannot criminalize homelessness when no shelter space is available. It means, to ticket or arrest a person for sleeping outside when there are no other options constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. 

The case began 10 years earlier in Boise, Idaho, when six people who had been homeless were cited for sleeping on public property and sued the city over it. Since, the city of Boise has amended their policy to only cite people who refuse services when they are available. 

For more on how the compromise is working in Boise, The Show reached out to Jodi Peterson, executive director of Interfaith Sanctuary Homeless Shelter, a homeless services organization in Boise.

That 9th U.S. Circuit ruling is enforceable throughout the entire judicial district, including in Arizona. So, how is law enforcement here approaching people who are living on the streets in light of it? And what else is needed to fix the problem?

For more on that, The Show spoke with Lisa Glow, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services in downtown Phoenix.

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