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Phoenix continues court-ordered cleanup of 'The Zone'

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - 2:50pm
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2023 - 8:48am

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The Zone in Phoenix
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
Outreach workers interact with homeless residents of "The Zone" in Downtown Phoenix as part of a court-ordered sweep of the area in late May 2023.

The city of Phoenix is continuing to clear out the massive homeless encampment downtown known as "the Zone." The court-ordered cleanup began May 10 and resumed Wednesday. 

As many as 800 people live in tents or makeshift shelters on the sidewalks from Eighth to 15th avenues along Jefferson and Madison streets.

Phallon Davenport, who lives in a homeless shelter nearby, thinks it’s a good thing the city is now being made to find beds for many of the unhoused people in the Zone.

“This being Phoenix, it’s almost summertime and it’s time to start getting people out of this heat," Davenport told KJZZ News on Wednesday morning as he watched outreach workers clearing the encampment.  

The Zone in Phoenix
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
A sign notifies homeless residents in May 2023 they will no longer be allowed to camp in an area of downtown Phoenix known as "The Zone. "

The city plans to clear the Zone block by block. Scott Hall, deputy director of Phoenix's office of homeless solutions, said in the first sweep on along Ninth Avenue, three weeks ago, the city interacted with 60 people, of whom, 47 accepted placement in shelters. In the weeks since, the city has been alerting about 40 people on 12th Avenue that theirs would be the next block cleared.

“They knew this day was coming, as you can see when you got out, people were already packing up and taking transportation, and it seems to be pretty positive so far," Hall told reporters Wednesday morning. 

homeless pets
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
A dog rests on the sidewalk near a homeless encampment in Downtown Phoenix.

Hall said Phoenix wants to offer beds to everyone who is being made to move. But, he said, if the city had to relocate everyone in the Zone at once, it would not have the shelter capacity.

“That’s why we’re doing it at this pace, trying to make sure that we have those resources available for people," Hall said. 

After residents and business owners filed a lawsuit against the city, a superior court judge in March said the city must clear the encampment. Hall said the city does not have an estimate for how long that would take at this pace. The city has until July 10 to show it’s taking steps to comply with the order.

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homeless encampment
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
A homeless encampment in Downtown Phoenix