Phoenix has until the end of this week to clear 'The Zone'

Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2023 - 2:25pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2023 - 2:27pm
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Phoenix’s Office of Homeless Solutions is making its final efforts this week to clear the downtown homeless encampment known as “The Zone.” The city has until Saturday to meet a court-ordered deadline to disperse the area.

A group of business owners and residents from the neighborhood in August 2022 sued the city, saying the area where more than 700 unsheltered people were camped had become a public nuisance. A Maricopa County Superior Court Judge ruled in their favor. The city began to clear "the Zone" in May and had asked the court to have until next April to complete the effort to work block-by-block to move people into indoor shelters. The judge instead gave the city a Nov. 4 deadline

Rachel Milne, director of Phoenix’s Office of Homeless Solutions, told KJZZ News the city accelerated its efforts in response, adding more than 300 shelter beds in October alone. 

"We've got under a week to meet that deadline and we are going to meet it," Milne said. “Everything that we’ve brought onboard recently, and all of our partners out there assisting us, we are going to meet that deadline."

Since May, the Office of Homeless Solutions has conducted outreach block-by-block in the area, interacting with nearly 600 people in “The Zone.” About 80% have accepted shelter, according to the city.  One final outreach effort is planned for Wednesday. 

The city will be due back in court Nov. 30 to show it complied with the Nov. 4 deadline. 

Milne said even after the city completes its outreach efforts in "the Zone," Phoenix will need to continue to push for more permanent fixes to its housing crisis.

“The things that we really need to focus on as a region is preventing as many people as possible from experiencing homelessness, and once the do, helping them exit quickly to a permanent housing destination," Milne said. 

In spite of large investments in recent years from the city, county and state to address the issue, people in Maricopa County are becoming homeless at faster rate than unhoused people are finding shelter. Homelessness in Maricopa County has increased about 50% in five years.