Phoenix business owners have scored a rare victory after a judge ruled in their favor in a case against the city of Phoenix over how they have handled a growing homeless encampment downtown.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney ruled Monday that city officials must stop enabling the hundreds of homeless camping out on a broad swath of downtown Phoenix, known as “The Zone,” and act quickly to find accommodations.
Maricopa County currently contains over 9,000 homeless people within its borders, with the bulk of those people residing in “The Zone.” The situation has created untenable conditions for business owners, who claim in a lawsuit that the homeless population is presenting an increasing health and safety threat to business and patrons.
Plaintiffs told the court via the lawsuit that they are consistently exposed to unhealthy conditions at work, having to wade through human waste and drug paraphernalia just to open their shops. Even within the relative safety of their buildings they still deal with fires set by homeless surrounding the area, and the mentally ill invading their stores and restaurants, destroying facilities and driving out customers.
Joe Faillace owns a sandwich shop in the area – which encompasses 7th avenue to 15th avenue, between Van Buren street and Grant street – and was recently profiled by The New York Times (NYT). As one of the plaintiffs, Faillace says he and his wife, Debbie (who is also his business partner) have tried over the years to adopt a philosophy of cooperation with the growing homeless population. They have offered jobs, bathroom facilities and food to those around, but it has not been enough to keep their shop safe. Debbie, 60, cannot walk from her car to her business without an escort. While interviewing the couple, NYT witnessed an example of the type of stress Debbie and Joe deal with every day in simply trying to serve customers, when a homeless woman sat herself down at one of the tiny shop’s tables and began acting erratically.
“I need to place a huge order,” a woman said as she walked up to the counter wearing mismatched shoes and carrying a garbage bag of her belongings. “I own Dairy Queen.”
“Oh, wow. Which one?” Debbie asked, playing along.
“All of them,” the woman said. “I’m queen of the queen.”
“That’s wonderful,” Debbie said as she led the woman to a table with a menu and a glass of water and watched as the woman emptied her bag onto the table, covering it with rocks, expired bus passes, a bicycle tire, clothing, 17 batteries, a few needles and a flashlight. “Would you like me to take an order?” Debbie asked.
“You know why I’m here,” the woman said, suddenly banging her fist against the table. “Don’t patronize me. The king needs his payment.”
Debbie refilled the woman’s water and walked behind the counter to find Joe. For the past several months, she had driven into work with stomach pain and stress headaches. She had started telling Joe that she was done at Old Station, whether that meant selling the restaurant, boarding it up or even moving away from Phoenix for a while without him. She had begun looking at real estate in Prescott, a small town about 100 miles away with a weekly art walk, mountain air, a few lakes.
“What am I supposed to tell this lady?” she asked him. “I can’t keep doing this. Every minute it’s something.”
Plaintiffs like the Faillices say they have been largely been left to deal with the problems alone as the city has refused to enforce vagrancy laws and law enforcement is overwhelmed with distress calls – up to eight calls a day in The Zone alone.
The situation has cost businesses customers, income and quality of life. Joe Faillices told NYT that just a mile away, business properties sell for up a million dollars. The last offer he was given on his own shop barely broke $150,000. The encampment is just too much for any sane investor to take on.
Judge Blaney’s ruling is a small step in the direction of the taxpayer, and drop of sanity in an increasingly insane situation. The city of Phoenix stopped enforcing health and vagrancy laws, allowing the situation to spiral out of control. Worse, Phoenix authorities were actively punishing business owners for enacting their own measures to keep their entrances safe for customers – things like planters, artwork and other scenic structures designed to discourage the homeless from camping in entrance ways. Blaney’s ruling says the city can no longer do that.
In the ruling acquired by AZ Law, Blaney said the encampment saw crime and drug use increase in the years since the city “intentionally stopped – or at least materially decreased – enforcement of criminal health, and other quality of life statutes and ordinances” in 2019.
City officials contended they can mitigate the homelessness in the area as they see fit.
Blaney ordered the city to remove the tents and biohazards like feces, urine and drug paraphernalia. He also forbade the city from forcing a local business to remove structures it put up nearby to discourage homeless from camping out near its entrance.
America’s cities are in a shocking state of decline as a result of the bizarre homeless laws (or lack thereof) that favor addicts and mentally unstable people over taxpayers who support the city and pay the salaries of those elected and appointed to govern it. As a result, many businesses have been fleeing once prosperous and coveted downtown areas of major cities like San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Santa Monica.
Democrat leaders have demonstrated they have no interest in protecting the taxpayers and/or their voters.
At this point it seems inevitable – without a voter base willing to punish politicians for their neglect, lawsuits like the one launched by the Phoenix business owners are going to be the only way forward to the reestablishment of some sort of sanity.
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