PHOENIX – Several Phoenix business owners are suing the city over its efforts to allow a homeless encampment near downtown.
Attorneys representing local downtown business owners attended a daylong hearing Oct. 27 in Maricopa County Superior Court.
During the hearing, attorneys presented their case to Judge Alison Bachus. Advocates testified about the plight of nearly 1,000 homeless people between Ninth and 13th avenues along Jefferson Street and said the city has done nothing to address the problem in the area.
According to court documents, attorneys say the lawsuit is valid to sue the city over a “major humanitarian crisis” caused by regular deaths at the camp, policies by Phoenix officials neglecting and exacerbating the crisis, and exposure of residents to violence and property damage. dropping of property values and garbage and human waste littering the area.
They use several Phoenix municipal codes to support their argument to show how the homeless in the area are engaging in illegal activities. One states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to use any public street, highway, alley, lane, parkway, sidewalk, or other way, whether granted to the public for a fee or by easement, for the purpose of lying. lying down or otherwise remaining in a sitting position on it, except in a physical emergency or providing medical assistance.”
That legal battle began Aug. 15 when 15 downtown property and business owners filed a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix. They argued that the area was a “public nuisance” between Ninth and 13th avenues south of Jefferson and north of Grant Street.
This downtown area has been known to allow people to sleep on the streets for decades, even though the area has seen an increase in homelessness. There are several homeless service providers in the area, including Human Services Campus, which operates a shelter, and Andre House, which provides meals and other services.
In September, lawyers representing the city filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the complaint, saying residents can’t use the courts to influence policy decisions on the homeless.
“They’re doing something. The plaintiffs don’t like that it’s not happening fast enough. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening and the city isn’t making efforts to ameliorate this undoubtedly terrible condition downtown,” said city attorney Aaron Arnson.
The Plantiffs say their lawsuit is not about criminalizing people’s behavior simply because they are homeless.
Ilan Wurman, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case, told the court, “We certainly do not want the city of Phoenix to send these homeless people to jail.”
As a representative for the plaintiffs, he said they don’t believe homeless people shouldn’t be left on the streets and the city should do something about it.
According to the lawsuit filed in court, Freddie Brown, of PBF Manufacturing at 1209 W. Jefferson St. owner, testified at the hearing as the property owner, arguing that the city should do something about the homeless encampment.
In the past year, one of Brown’s employees was assaulted by a homeless man with a pipe and a police report was filed, his testimony said.
He also testified that his building has broken windows, homeless people have defecated on his property, and that he has wanted to do expansions and improvements to the building, but contractors feel unsafe coming.
The city defends the delay in funding new shelters because it takes months to find spaces. The city is also working on an “enhanced cleanup” project in the area that will include hazardous materials crews.
The judge has yet to make a decision in this case.