A judge on Wednesday ordered the city of Phoenix to permanently clear out its largest homeless encampment by Nov. 4.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney ruled in favor of Phoenix residents and business owners who sued the city, claiming it "created, maintained, and/or failed to abate a public nuisance."
According to the Goldwater Institute, the homeless encampment, known as "The Zone," has over 1,000 homeless people sleeping in makeshift tents on the sidewalks. Residents have reported seeing open-air drug use, public sex, urination, and defecation. The area around the encampment has also seen an increase in violent crime.
Earlier this year, Blaney stated that Phoenix violated Arizona's nuisance laws by not shutting down the encampment. In July, Blaney ordered the city to work on clearing out The Zone, but the city had requested a deadline of April 2024, stating that the process would take time.
However, Wednesday's ruling stated that Phoenix "intentionally stopped — or at least materially decreased — enforcement of criminal, health, and other quality of life statutes and ordinances in the Zone." Blaney gave the city the Nov. 4 deadline, since Phoenix had around "eight months to address conditions in the Zone since the date the Court issued the Preliminary Injunction," "fifteen months from the date the Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit," and "nearly two years from the date that Plaintiffs first sought assistance from — and presented a viable plan to — their City Council representative and other City officials."
"The Court therefore finds little merit to any argument that a 45-day deadline does not allow sufficient time for the City to complete the clean-up," Blaney ruled, claiming that the city would not have made an effort to clear the homeless encampment unless "forced to do so."
"The City failed to take any meaningful action toward addressing the conditions in the Zone until this Court issued the Preliminary Injunction. City witnesses admitted at trial that the reason that they are now closing the streets to additional camping is because of the existence of the Preliminary Injunction," Blaney said.
A spokesperson for Phoenix said in response to the order, "The city is addressing the area around the Human Services Campus strategically, one block at a time to ensure we can offer every individual we engage with shelter. The city is reviewing the court's ruling and exploring legal options.”
There will be a hearing on Nov. 30 to see if the city has permanently cleared The Zone.
The Goldwater Institute stated, "This is not at all the end of the Zone story. In addition to the city's reluctance to enforce the law, there's also the pending federal case, and the possibility that the city will appeal this ruling to the Arizona Court of Appeals. But today's ruling is at least a vindication of the rights of the innocent property and business owners in The Zone who have been bearing the burden of the city's refusal to do its duty — and a first step toward actually addressing the problems of homelessness in Phoenix."
Jeremy Frankel is a Newsmax writer reporting on news and politics.
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