Phoenix Residents Sue City over Handling of Homeless Population

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio shared that a group of Arizona home and business owners recently filed a complaint against the City of Phoenix over its handling of the homeless population.

“Phoenix has long pushed homeless into Neighborhoods. People are fed up and taking matters into their own hands,” tweeted DiCiccio. “If Phoenix is allowed to push this problem into their neighborhood, your neighborhood will be next.”

In the complaint filed against the city by Tully Bailey LLP, a group of 15 residents and three businesses argued that an area known locally as “the Zone” has become overflown with homeless people and created a nuisance for property owners. The area sits just a few blocks from the Arizona Capitol between Jefferson Street and the railroad south of Jackson Street, with over a thousand people reportedly living on the streets in the area.

The Plaintiffs blame city policy for the inflated homeless population in the Zone. In 2019, a Ninth Circuit Court opinion regarding Martin v. City of Boise declared that Idaho must allow homeless individuals to camp on some public lands if there are not enough shelter beds. The complaint alleges that the City of Phoenix stopped enforcing prohibitions on public camping after this ruling and has even directed/transported homeless people to the Zone because of the homeless services in the area, such as the Human Services Campus. However, the lawsuit argued that nothing in Martin prohibits a city from enforcing criminal laws and quality-of-life ordinances that “preserve community health, safety, and order.”

The Plaintiffs presented a plethora of ways the area has deteriorated because of the homeless population, including an increase in violent crimes, drug use, property crimes and trespassing, trash along the streets, public nudity and defecation, blocked public rights of way, and homeless deaths.

In one specific case, Plaintiff Freddy Brown, president of PBF Manufacturing located on Jefferson Street, and his employees have been affected by the homeless population, stating they leave the building as infrequently as possible out of fear for their own safety. One of his employees was assaulted by a homeless individual with a pipe in the last year, and other employees’ car windows have been smashed.

Furthermore, husband and wife Plaintiffs Joel and Jo-Ann Coplin moved into a property on 11th Avenue in 2018 and have operated an art gallery. Since then, as the homeless population grew, they have experienced damage to their property, and conducting business has become difficult. The couple fears they will have to shut down and sell the property.

Several other Plaintiffs have stories of being disrupted by the homeless population documented within the complaint. Ultimately, the group wants the superior court to enter judgment declaring the Zone as a public nuisance, that the City of Phoenix has caused an invasion of private rights by maintaining the Zone, and an injunction prohibiting the Defendants from taking any actions that continue the issue.

As reported by AZCentral, one of the attorneys involved in the complaint stated that the goal is not to have all the homeless people arrested or to receive any monetary compensation for damages from the city. Instead, the Plaintiffs would like to see better long-term solutions for this problem, but for now, they suggested the city create “structured camping grounds” for the homeless where laws can be enforced and cleanliness maintained. Doing so may increase quality of life for both residents and homeless people.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].

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  1. […] reported by the Sun Times, conditions became so bad that Phoenix citizens filed a lawsuit against the city, […]

  2. […] The investigation occurred in downtown Phoenix’s massive homeless encampment known as “the Zone.” Detectives found homeless people openly smoking fentanyl pills and methamphetamine in the […]