White dump trucks outfitted with City of Phoenix emblems and street sweepers lined the roads near the concentrated homeless camp dubbed, “the Zone,” this morning as part of their new “enhanced clean-up” effort in the area.
A federal judge allowed the new cleaning procedure to go forward in an order issued Thursday night but barred the city from enforcing urban camping citations or disposing of property without notice and a 30-day holding period.
The order and clean-up came after two separate cases levied against the City of Phoenix over homelessness went in front of judges this week.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the city, alleging constitutional violations in “sweeps.” Two plaintiffs in the suit, who were formerly unhoused, claimed they had IDs, debit cards, medications, tents and other survival gear seized from them and disposed of by the city.
The ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction went in front of Judge Murray Snow on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Snow issued a preliminary injunction. As a result the city can no longer enforce camping or sleeping bans; seize the property of an unsheltered person without prior notice unless there’s an “objectively reasonable” belief that it is abandoned, unsafe, or evidence of a crime; and can no longer destroy property without maintaining it in a secure location for a period of less than 30 days.
The enhanced clean-up plan, which temporarily clears those camped in the Zone for street cleaning, is thought to be in response to another suit filed against the city on behalf of residents and business owners, alleging the city failed in abating the “public nuisance.”
Yesterday, attorneys for both the city and private residents and business owners fielded a barrage of questions from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney.
Attorneys for the city filed a motion to dismiss the case while attorneys for the residents asked for a preliminary injunction forcing the city to “clean up and clear out.”
Attorneys for the residents, Ilan Wurman and Stephen Tully, want the city to vacate the area, stating the “number one thing is the tents have to be gone.”
Wurman said they are not telling the city how to achieve this goal, though they did offer some suggestions, including a “larger police presence,” in the area.
Aaron Arnson and Trish Stuhan, attorneys for the city, maintained they are unable to enforce urban camping bans or force people out of the area using citations under a Ninth Circuit decision making it unconstitutional to prosecute people for sleeping outside when the number of unsheltered individuals outnumbers shelter beds.
Tully at one point in the hearing, took on somewhat of mocking tone imitating the city, saying “It’s so complicated, we can’t do anything.”
But the federal judges’ order affirms Arnson and Stuhan’s position. The preliminary injunction bars the city from enforcing camping and sleeping bans if there are more unsheltered individuals than shelter beds.
Tully and Wurman are seeking a nuisance abatement. Stuhan said a nuisance abatement makes sense with something like a decrepit building.
“But we’re not talking about concrete, we’re talking about people,” Stuhan said.
Arnson said the plaintiffs were essentially employing the ‘not in my backyard’ argument and that even if the city was able to clear out the Zone, the problem would simply be shifted to another area in the city.
The judge argued, though, that it may not be as concentrated. A ruling on the case is expected sometime next week.