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Phoenix won’t solve homelessness by booting people from public spaces

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Elisheyah McKinley passes out white roses and hygiene bags to other homeless people during a memorial service for Houseless Friends We Have Lost in Phoenix, Arizona. Many of the homeless people are living in tents near 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street.

Most bus stops across Phoenix have replaced benches with individual seating structures to reduce the likelihood of someone sleeping. A number of exit ramps, on-ramps and vacant lots have “no trespassing” signs posted on state property to deter people from the areas.

The public is told where walking, resting, congregating and other actions can and cannot happen within public space. However, the vulnerable population, including people who are unhoused, are often directly and indirectly removed from public areas and excluded from decisions about what happens to public features.

The city of Phoenix retroactively gave the public an avenue to express their voices about the approved Strategies to Address Homelessness Plan. It provided surveys to people experiencing homelessness and people who are not — surveys that are meant to understand social needs. The homelessness plan focuses on service priorities and sustainable strategies that produce solutions for those experiencing homelessness and communities impacted by encampments.

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