PHOENIX — The City of Phoenix said it is cleaning up "The Zone."
It's the largest homeless encampment in the city, located near 11th Avenue and Madison Street, and in March, a judge ordered the city to do so.
City officials said they have been doing enhanced cleanings of the area since December.
"So far, 67% of the people we've interacted with have actually accepted either a shelter or a treatment option, which is huge," said Rachel Milne, the director of the City of Phoenix Office of Homeless Solutions.
Until now, if a person rejected the options provided, they could bring their tent and other items back to the cleaned block. Starting on May 10, people cannot go back once a block is cleaned.
Milne said at last count, close to 900 people were living in the encampment. It is near Central Arizona Shelter Services, or CASS, the state's largest shelter.
"Right now, if everyone down there said, 'I'm ready to go to an indoor place,' we absolutely do not have capacity for that, which is one of the reasons why we have to do it block by block," Milne said. "And we've got to bring some more solutions on board."
The big question is, where will everyone go?
Milne said they are exploring various options, including hotels and vacant buildings.
“We're looking at hotels that we can lease, we're looking at vacant buildings where we could set up a temporary shelter. And then we're also looking at a safe outdoor space that we could offer," Milne said.
Milne said the city has identified some outdoor spaces that could potentially house some experiencing homelessness, but nothing has been set in stone. She did not provide 12News with the specific locations the city is looking at but assured these locations would not bring similar issues "The Zone" brought to business and property owners.
"We will have our code of conduct rules and regulations that folks have to abide by to be there. Certainly, we will have security. It'll be a safer place, not only for the people experiencing homelessness, but it will help solve resolve the business owners' issues in that neighborhood as well," Milne said.
The city is accelerating its plans to clean up the area after a judge ordered them to. Property owners in the area were fed up with dealing with problems associated with "The Zone," so they sued the city.
"One of the things we definitely don't want to have happen is to have the problem be dispersed into other neighborhoods, which is why we're trying to offer a variety of solutions to meet every person's need, no matter what those needs are," Milne said.
Milne said the city is working on a new shelter at 22nd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road with 280 shelter spaces.
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