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  • Writer's pictureArizona Senate Republicans

President Petersen Encourages U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Banning Encampments Like "the Zone"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, September 20, 2023



President Petersen Encourages U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Banning Encampments Like "the Zone" to Help Address Homeless Crisis


PHOENIX, ARIZONA— Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma are joining a federal case originating in Oregon that aims to get the Supreme Court of the United States to address homeless encampment bans, in order to tackle the growing crisis plaguing our Arizona communities.


The Republican legislative leaders today filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Gloria Johnson, et al. Three homeless individuals in Grants Pass filed this lawsuit to try to stop local and state governments from combating the public safety threats, the public health dangers, and the inhumane conditions associated with these homeless encampments. Detrimental rulings from both a lower court and the Ninth Circuit have tied the hands of elected officials in establishing critical solutions.


"The Zone," located just blocks away from the Arizona State Capitol, is a prime example of the devastation inflicting our citizens, with hundreds of homeless individuals living in squalor. This area is afflicted with murders, rapes, drug abuse, disease, and other atrocities that lawmakers, law enforcement, social workers, and healthcare professionals are unable to properly address due to ongoing litigation.


President Petersen and House Speaker Toma argue the Ninth Circuit seized policymaking authority from elected state legislatures and city councils and dictated how state and local officials can respond in alleviating the homeless crisis. Additionally, they contend the Court greatly misinterpreted the Eighth Amendment when it ruled that imposing penalties in order to get people off the streets is "cruel and unusual punishment."


"We're talking about a humanitarian crisis that continues to spiral out of control in our state, thanks to bad court rulings, judicial overreach, and a litany of vetoes by the Governor," said President Petersen. "Lives and livelihoods are lost every single day that we continue to allow homeless encampments to grow in our communities. We must have clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court in order to holistically address the systemic issues contributing to homelessness, as well as the dire public safety and public health consequences created by allowing these encampments to remain. Once again, the Attorney General is absent, but the Speaker and I are committed to engaging for the betterment of Arizona."


"Many of the street homeless population are seriously mentally ill, drug addicted, or both," said Senator John Kavanagh. "It is unconscionable that these vulnerable people are being allowed to live in squalid circumstances on the street where they may abuse drugs and become crime victims. This situation is a result of federal court rulings that some say prohibit the police from enforcing street camping bans even when shelter can be provided to the homeless person. It is imperative that the Supreme Court clarify lower court rulings, so that if homeless persons are offered shelter and refuse, they can be removed from the street by the police."


"Homelessness is one of the top issues impacting Legislative District 2, putting law enforcement and private property owners into the direct fray due to the lack of leadership at Phoenix City Hall," said Senator Shawnna Bolick. "My constituents want safe neighborhoods, not ones littered with used needles and drug paraphernalia often left overnight for their kids to encounter on the way to the bus stop to get to school. There are quite a few civil society groups stepping up, but it’s not enough. I hope the USSC does the right thing. Government exists for public safety, and Arizona’s Governor along with the Phoenix Mayor are failing their citizens."


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For more information, contact:

Kim Quintero

Director of Communications | Arizona State Senate Republican Caucus

kquintero@azleg.gov

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