PHOENIX - The City of Phoenix spent much of the morning and the afternoon of Dec. 16 cleaning up homeless encampment area known as "The Zone" in Central Phoenix.
The cleanup operation came hours after a federal judge imposed a number of restrictions on the City of Phoenix over the issue of homeless sweeps.
According to court documents provided by the ACLU of Arizona, Chief U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow wrote that while the order does not prevent the city from conducting its enhanced cleanup plans in the area, city officials are preliminarily banned from the following:
- Enforcing camping and sleeping bans against individuals who practically cannot obtain shelter, as long as there are more unsheltered individuals in Phoenix than there are shelter beds available.
- Seizing any property of the homeless without providing prior notice, unless the property is reasonably believed to be abandoned, presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime of contraband.
- Destroying seized property without maintaining it in a secure location for a period of less than 30 days.
Shelter offered to homeless during cleanup
During the cleanup efforts, officials offered shelter to anyone who wanted it, and once the cleaning was completed, the homeless had the option to put their tents back up and stay.
The goal is to get people off the streets, and to clean up the area for those who decide to stay.
"Ultimately, the best thing we've been able to do is offer every person shelter opportunity," said City of Phoenix Deputy Director of Homeless Solutions Scott Hall.
Hall says a couple dozen people have accepted their offer for shelter.
Meanwhile, during a meeting on Dec. 15, members of the Phoenix City Council approved a plan to turn dozens of shipping containers into livable homes.
Advocate voices concerns
Frank Urban says he used to be homeless. He is now with the Fund for Empowerment, and says he is concerned that with the cleanup, people will lose personal items
"We've had our belongings taken and discarded by Phoenix Police too many times to count," said Urban.
Hall, however, said belongings were set aside.
"We have people out here offering services offering placement in the shelter, while we also have a place for people to store the belongings they want to keep," said Hall.
Resources for People Experiencing Homelessness