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City-Sanctioned Slums: The Environmental Impact Of Phoenix’s Homeless Zone

March 31, 2023

You’ll know you’re in The Zone by the smell.

The suffocating stench of urine and feces. Rotting garbage. The occasional whiffs of fentanyl, or the synthetic drug Spice clouding the air. Dead bodies. No, it’s not a Third World nation—it’s a lawless encampment of over 1,000 homeless people in downtown Phoenix, where crime is rampant, and the city does virtually nothing about it.

The city’s inaction provoked a lawsuit by business owners in the Zone who are suffering the consequences of the unchecked homelessness crisis. This week, a Maricopa County judge issued a preliminary ruling, finding that the city has “intentionally stopped—or at least materially decreased—enforcement of criminal, health, and other quality of life statutes and ordinances in [T]he Zone,” effectively making it “off-limits to [law] enforcement.” That’s good news for the business owners, but the decision is just a first step in the long process of solving the problem.

Karl Freund — who was leasing a building in The Zone and is suing the city over the homeless crisis — described to AZ Free News a state of apathy toward improvement for both the homeless and those assigned to handle it.

“You see trash everywhere. These people just don’t give a flip anymore, you know?” said Freund. “I see these people smoking meth wide out in the open. I’ll go over to them and tell them to leave. Then they’ll just go to another corner.”

The apathy has turned the once-thriving residential and business district into a depressed wasteland of death and depravity. Freund had plans to run a real estate business in the building he’d leased. Destruction to his property and the undesirability of the area caused by the homeless encampments has made that impossible; per AZ Free News’ initial report, he spent hundreds of thousands to fight for the property before having to find another to sublet it.

Read the full story at AZ Free News. 



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