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Phoenix may expand camping ban to near schools and day cares, but legal questions remain

Some Phoenix leaders want to expand the city’s ban on camping in public spaces, but legal questions remain.

Phoenix currently bans camping on sidewalks and in alleys, city parks, canals and washes. The majority of the council’s public safety subcommittee wants to expand the ban within 500 feet of schools, child-care centers and shelters.

“Our community members want to feel safe in their neighborhoods. And that includes their schools and their day cares where they take their children,” said Councilwoman Ann O’Brien, who chairs the subcommittee.

Councilwoman Betty Guardado voted against the proposal after pointing out a temporary court injunction requires Phoenix to offer shelter or an alternative public space for unhoused people.

"You know, we are only going to put a piece of paper that says, ‘You cannot camp 500 feet from where a school is at’, but other than that there doesn't seem to be other solutions," Guardado said.

She said she wants to see more shelter beds added across the city.

The full council must still vote on the proposal, which would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $2,500, six months in jail or up to three years probation.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to weigh in this year on whether cities can legally ban or limit where unhoused people can camp. 

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.