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Petition on homeless camps sheds light on rats, feces, crime in downtown Phoenix

Posted at 5:14 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 16:51:05-05

PHOENIX — A petition addressed to the mayor of Phoenix, city council members, and other leaders call for action to the homeless encampments in the downtown area as human waste, rats, and concerns over safety are growing.

The letter addressed to Mayor Kate Gallego, city council members, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and City of Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams says that the "immediate crisis situation" needs to be addressed.

The Madison Pioneers Coalition is addressing health and safety concerns:


ABC15 has confirmed that Maricopa County's Environmental Services Department has had complaints of rats near the encampments.

A spokesperson for the department said in an email that they have set up rat traps around the Jefferson and Madison Avenues, but say they have yet to catch any rats.

Freddy Brown, president of PBF Manufacturing company, tells ABC15 they have had rats in their large warehouse, that sits at the corner of Jefferson Avenue.

The family-owned business since the 1970s sells caskets and have become inundated by the tents outside their business, "even my employees say they don't like coming to work because how everything looks."


Health concerns include Hepatitis A & B in Maricopa County.

ABC15 found that out of the 596 Hep A cases in the State of Arizona, more than half are in Maricopa County.

According to the county's website, there have been 324 cases as of last week.

And, in the state of Arizona, 49% of the cases are due to homelessness and drug use.

The petition sent to city leaders requests for daily cleanup of the streets, sidewalks, and alleys. This includes the request to sanitize the area to prevent diseases from spreading.

ABC15 was in downtown Phoenix on Monday, and human waste and the smell of urine took over the area.

"Install public toilets and waste disposal facilities in the area," the petition reads.

The coalition is also calling on immediate 24/7 overflow homeless living shelter.

ABC15 has reported on the chronic homeless before -- many who live on the streets choose to, as they don't want to abide by shelter rules. This includes many addicts, and those struggling with mental health.

"Mitigate illegal activity in the area that makes it unsafe to live, walk the streets, work, or visit the area," the petition reads.

Angela Ojile, President of Madison Pioneers Coalition, worries about the safety downtown. "There are many people preying on the poor and mentally weak in the area who commit crimes, including selling and using illegal drugs and stolen goods," she wrote.


Artist Joel Coplin lives in the heart of downtown Phoenix's homeless encampment. It's also where his art gallery sits.

Coplin, who moved to the area in 2018, has watched the streets turn into what he calls a theater at night, "it's a constant theater," he said, "everything from ecstasy to agony."

His paintings are part of the search for the truth and the homeless situation in Phoenix, "I'm not really interested in how they got here, but how they're getting out," he said.

Coplin, owner of Gallery 119, captures people being assaulted, women hiding from the rain, and children with their mothers.

Those who work in the area say they feel no one is taking responsibility, "we don't feel we're being helped by anyone with the state, or by the city," said Brown.

One woman living on the street, said she's lost hope, "a lot of these people just gave up, and I don't want to give up, I don't want to succumb to this place, I don't want to be stuck here, and I don't want to stay here years like people have."