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Fund for Empowerment v. Phoenix, City of

Location: Arizona
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: October 17, 2023

What's at Stake

Fund for Empowerment is a challenge to the City of Phoenix’s practice of conducting sweeps of encampments without notice, issuing citations to unsheltered people for camping and sleeping on public property when they have no place else to go, and confiscating and destroying their property without notice or process.

The ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit against the City of Phoenix seeking an immediate stop to its unconstitutional practices that exacerbate the homelessness crisis by punishing unsheltered individuals for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go and destroying their personal property without notice.

The lawsuit argued that the City’s practices violated the protections of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The City conducted unconstitutional raids targeting the unsheltered community without notice. During these raids, unsheltered people were given mere minutes to collect and move their personal belongings. Any belongings unsheltered people were unable to collect in time were destroyed. The City also issued citations to unsheltered people for sleeping and camping in public, even though they had nowhere else to go. Finally, the City knowingly created a danger by pushing unsheltered people into a large encampment nicknamed the Zone.

Filed on behalf of the Fund for Empowerment (FFE), the lawsuit also represents three individual plaintiffs, Frank Urban, Faith Kearns, and Ronnie Massingille, who have been directly impacted by previous raids and have received citations due to their status as unsheltered individuals.

This lawsuit sought immediate relief for unsheltered community members by asking the Court to order the City of Phoenix to halt plans for future raids and prevent Phoenix police from enforcing city ordinances that criminalize homelessness.

UPDATE - October 17, 2023: The Honorable G. Murray Snow modified the preliminary injunction, which was issued in December 2022 in an early victory for the unsheltered community, to align with the amended Ninth Circuit decision in Johnson v. City of Grants Pass, 72 F.4th 868 (9th Cir. 2023). The current preliminary injunction enjoins the City of Phoenix from 1) enforcing its Camping and Sleeping bans against involuntarily homeless persons if there are no other public areas or appropriate shelters where they can sleep; 2) preventing the City from seizing unsheltered people’s property without adequate notice; and 3) forbidding the City from destroying personal property during raids.

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