Phoenix clears last remaining block of 'The Zone' encampment
Several blocks of downtown Phoenix that, as of a few months ago, were densely packed with tents and makeshift shelters are now empty. The city of Phoenix on Wednesday completed its final outreach effort in the downtown homeless encampment known as “The Zone.”
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. The Maricopa County Superior Court Judge in the case gave the city until Nov. 4 to clear the encampment.
Phoenix's Office of Homeless Solutions since May has been closing off one block at a time to camping and offering shelter placement to the people living on that block. As of Wednesday morning, just one block of tents remained along the gates of the Human Services Campus on Jackson Street.
During the city's final outreach effort Wednesday, Phoenix Office of Homeless Solutions deputy director Scott Hall told reporters the city was on schedule to meet its court-ordered deadline.
“We have enough resources to offer everybody today that first step to getting them off the street, then it will be up to us to help maintain and engage people as people try to reinhabit. But most people have been adhering to the signs up that say we can’t camp in this area anymore,” Hall said.
Attorneys for the city will have to appear before a Superior Court judge at the end of this month to show Phoenix complied with the order to clear "the Zone."
During 16 engagement efforts since May, outreach workers interacted with about 600 people who were camped in the area. The Office of Homeless Solutions reports about 80% accepted shelter.
Hall said the city is now able to direct those who don’t want shelter to a new, structured campground with 24-hour security.
“The safe outdoor space is going to be a resource just like any quality shelter," Hall said. "We’re going to have case management, navigation. So our message is, if that’s the place you need, go in there and our goal is still to get to an indoor location."
Hall said the secure outdoor space, which City Council approved in September, is already open for camping and its construction will be complete later this month. It will have the capacity for about 300 people.