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Arizona Urges Supreme Court To Hear The Homelessness Case

Arizona appeals to the Supreme Court for a review of a pivotal homelessness case, seeking clarity and a potential precedent on the issue.

October 12, 2023

Plenty of Arizona entities spurred by a legal battle over the homeless encampment in Phoenix have urged the Supreme Court to weigh how cities respond to rising street homelessness. 

Nearly two dozen groups from across the country such as Phoenix, Scottsdale-based Goldwater Institute, and legislative leaders of Arizona have filed legal briefs to the high court. A case involving a small Oregon city upheld an individual’s right to live on the street when no shelter was available. A lower court ruling deemed urban camping bans as “cruel and unusual punishment,” making them unconstitutional in the absence of alternative shelter options.

Phoenix said that this ruling restricts the municipality’s ability to address public health and safety concerns from homeless encampments. The city wants the Supreme Court to hear this case and overturn the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision allowing cities to clear encampments. 

In some parts, the city agrees with the House Speaker, Senate President, and the Goldwater Institute. The legislative leaders and think tanks claim that the ruling has placed an unnecessary burden on cities facing a surge in homelessness.

Arizona and other states across the U.S. have seen a rise in homelessness over the past years. Since 2017, the number of unsheltered people has almost doubled. 

The population reached 1,000 people at night in Phoenix’s largest homeless encampment. From the moment the Supreme Court Judge also ordered Phoenix to clear the downtown encampment, the number of people came down to half. 

Neighboring residents and business owners filed a public nuisance lawsuit, claiming an encampment increased crime and blight. The case continues, with Phoenix recently being denied an extension to close The Zone. In September, the city received an order to permanently clear the camp by Nov. 4.

Before clearing the area, Phoenix needs to provide notice and store personal items gathered in sweeps for around 30 days. The enforcement of camping and sleeping bans was also prohibited against people who cannot obtain shelter as there are more unsheltered individuals.

Last Updated: September 20, 2021