By Corinne Murdock |
Earlier this month, a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix for facilitating a crime-riddled homeless encampment in the downtown area dubbed “the Zone” received a legal boost. The Zone has over 1,000 individuals, making it the largest homeless encampment in the state and one of the largest homeless encampments in the country.
The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based public policy think tank and litigation organization, submitted an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit in early October. They petitioned the court to require the city to clean up The Zone.
The brief summarized that the city’s dereliction of duty violated multiple laws, including a 1985 Arizona Supreme Court decision constituting the invitation of vagrants into an area as an illegal nuisance as well as state law forbidding cities from maintaining activities that pollute public waterways.
In a press release, the Goldwater Institute’s vice president for legal affairs, Timothy Sandefur, contested that it was “outrageous” that the city would withhold police protection from the property and business owners within The Zone.
“It’s not compassion to let people live on the streets, in an atmosphere riddled with unpoliced gang violence,” wrote Sandefur. “Hardworking Phoenicians should be able to rely on the public services their tax dollars pay for — and their elected officials owe them a duty to enforce the laws.”
Sandefur highlighted one of the businesses harmed by the city’s facilitation of The Zone: Arizona Rock Products Association (ARPA), a trade organization for the mining and rock industry. Sandefur relayed how the homeless started fires, left used needles and condoms, defecated and urinated, broke into cars, trespassed, and stole food from a refrigerator on ARPA property.
“ARPA is one of the many crucial contributors to Arizona’s economy, all of whom deserve to have their public officials enforce the law and protect their rights,” wrote Sandefur. “Yet thanks to this nuisance the city has created, ARPA is finding it increasingly difficult to do business at all in Arizona.”
The case, Brown v. City of Phoenix (CV2022-010439), was filed in August in the Maricopa County Superior Court and will be heard by Judge Alison Bachus.
The 19 plaintiffs represent property and business owners located within The Zone: Freddy Brown, Joel and Jo-Ann Coplin, Joseph and Deborah Faillace, Karl Freund, Gallery 119, Michael Godbehere, Jordan Evan Greeman, Rozella Hector, Daniel and Dianne Langmade, Ian Likwarz, Matthew and Michael Lysiak, Old Station Sub Shop, PBF Manufacturing Company, Phoenix Kitchens Spe, and Don Stockman.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs accused the city of Phoenix of concentrating the homeless population within The Zone. The plaintiffs noted that city officials had full authority to adopt “irrational” policies, but asserted that those policies couldn’t cause nuisance and damage to civilians.
“In short, instead of seeking to solve the homelessness crisis, the City has effectively invited this population to construct semi-permanent tent dwellings on the public sidewalks and rights of way in Plaintiffs’ neighborhood, and to make the Zone their home,” stated the lawsuit. “The City has not only permitted this illegal conduct and maintained it on public lands within its control, but it has also encouraged it through a policy of directing other homeless persons from around the city to the Zone.”
The plaintiffs noted that a “substantial portion” of the homeless residents within The Zone were mentally ill or addicted to drugs, and consistently in violation of quality-of-life ordinances prohibiting loitering, disturbing the peace, drunken and disorderly conduct, drug use, domestic violence, and obstruction of streets, sidewalks, and other public grounds.
“In the Zone and its environs, laws are violated with impunity; residents are subject to violence, property damage, and other criminal and civil violations of laws designed to protect the quality of life of residents; property values have been erased; trash and human waste litter streets and yards; and, most tragically, a great humanitarian crisis unfolds as homeless residents of the Zone die on daily basis,” read the lawsuit.