PHOENIX – Several Phoenix business owners are suing the city over its effort to allow a homeless encampment near downtown.
Attorneys representing local downtown business owners attended what turned out to be an all-day hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court on Oct. 27.
During the hearing, attorneys presented their case to Judge Alison Bachus. Attorneys testified about the conditions of nearly 1,000 homeless people concentrated between Ninth and 13th avenues along Jefferson Street and said the city has done nothing to fix the problem in the area.
According to court documents, lawyers say the suit has standing to sue the city over claims of a “major humanitarian crisis” caused by regular deaths at the camp, policies put in place by Phoenix officials that neglect and worsen the crisis, residents being exposed to violence and property damage, declining property values and trash and human waste littered the area.
They use several Phoenix municipal codes to support their argument to show how the homeless are committing illegal acts in the area. One says: “It shall be unlawful for any person to use a public street, highway, alley, lane, highway, sidewalk, or other right of way, whether such right has been reserved to the public by fee or easement, to lie. sleeping or otherwise remaining seated, except in the case of a physical emergency or the provision of medical assistance.”
That legal battle began Aug. 15, when 15 downtown property and business owners filed a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix. They claimed 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 for decades for allowing people to sleep on the streets, even as homelessness has increased in the area. 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 to have a judge dismiss the complaint, saying residents can’t use the courts to influence policy decisions regarding the homeless.
“They’re doing something.” It’s something prosecutors don’t like that it’s not happening fast enough. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening and the city isn’t trying to ameliorate what is undoubtedly a terrible condition downtown. said Aaron Arnson, the city’s attorney.
The Plantiffs say the goal of their lawsuit is not to criminalize the behavior of people just because they are homeless.
Ilan Wurman, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case, said in court, “We certainly don’t want the city of Phoenix to send these homeless people to jail.”
As a representative for the plaintiffs, he said he doesn’t believe it should be okay for homeless people to stay on the streets and the city should do something about it.
According to the lawsuit filed in court, Freddy Brown, owner of PBF Manufacturing at 1209 W. Jefferson St., testified as the property owner at the hearing and argued the city needed to do something about the homeless encampment.
His testimony said that last year one of Brown’s employees was attacked with a pipe by a homeless man and a police report was made.
He also testified that his building’s windows were broken, homeless people defecated on his property, and that he wanted to expand and improve the building, but contractors don’t feel safe showing up.
The city resists delaying funding for 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 emergency crews.
The judge has not yet ruled on this case.