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Phoenix City Council to vote on camping ban near schools, child care, shelters

A vote scheduled this week before the Phoenix City Council could ban unhoused people from camping in certain areas.

“This is a win-win, I think for our community,” said Councilwoman Ann O’Brien, who is behind the expanded ordinance proposal.

She said Phoenix wants to offer services to people in need while also keeping encampments at least 500 feet away from schools, child care facilities and shelters.

“We saw, with what happened with ‘The Zone,’ where our businesses and our residents were adversely impacted by all of those encampments,” she said.

A lawsuit filed by businesses and residents forced Phoenix last year to shut down “The Zone,” the city’s largest encampment near downtown.

Phoenix already bans camping in city-owned parks, buildings and parking lots. If the council approves, the changes will take effect Sept. 1. Violators would face a misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $100.

“Some folks refuse service, and that’s not OK. We want to help them. When their way of living impacts others who are following laws, it’s just not OK,” O’Brien said. “Should they be cited, then my hope would be they would have an opportunity to go through our community court program and have shelter and whatever other services they need, whether that’s treatment for substance abuse, job skills, or just getting your paperwork you need: driver’s license and Social Security card.”

In January, Phoenix launched a new court to help people end their homelessness. Modeled after similar courts for veterans and people with mental illnesses, the community court is available to low-level offenders who are unsheltered.

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