Tempe denies AZ Hugs a permit to host park picnics for homeless people

By Ignacio Ventura
Published: Monday, January 22, 2024 - 9:03am
Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2024 - 5:11pm

Austin Davis Loads Up Supplies in a wagon
Tom Maxedon/KJZZ
Austin Davis is an ASU student and member of Arizona Jews For Justice, a Valley nonprofit. He makes weekly trips to "The Zone" to hand out water and sanitary packets in 2020.

The city of Tempe is denying a special event permit for the Phoenix nonprofit known as AZ Hugs.

The organization serves the homeless by hosting Sunday family picnics at parks around the Valley, including Tempe. City officials stated in a release these events can draw as many as 150 people and are in violation of city code.

Reading from a prepared statement to media organizations following the denial of the permit, AZ Hugs founder Austin Davis says the situation is about human rights.

“Taking away access to daily necessities like food and criminalizing homelessness in Tempe does not actually solve anything or help people work through their complicated situations at all. Doing so just shifts the location of where those in need have to hide," he said.

According to the city, the picnics put on by AZ Hugs have drawn complaints from Tempe residents who have  reported trash and drug paraphernalia in the areas where the events had taken place.

In a statement released Friday, Tempe officials said the picnics "must follow the same rules as other Tempe events open to the public."

“All public open space used for events, whether hosted by a nonprofit organization, resident or business, requires a special event permit. No person or organization is above city code, regardless of the type of event being held,” said Greg Ruiz, interim deputy city manager over Community Health and Human Services, Tempe Police and Tempe Fire Medical Rescue.

Politics Homelessness Housing