Phoenix Arizona Looks Like a “Third World Country” as Homeless Population Grows

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 29, 2024

The beautiful city of Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its breathtaking desert landscape, miles of hiking trails, nearby national parks, and the beloved Phoenix Zoo.

However, in recent years, the city has become even more well-known for its growing homeless population. While the city is trying desperately to manage the situation, one local business owner said Phoenix looks “like a third world country.”

Phoenix's Homeless Encampment "The Zone"

For the past several years, a homeless encampment called “The Zone” grew steadily throughout several streets of downtown Phoenix.

A photograph of a homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix, Arizona


In 2023, the tent city had more than 1,000 residents living without housing, and it caused extreme disruption to the surrounding area.

Phoenix Business Owner Says "The Zone" Was "Tough to Stomach"

Steve Trussell, the executive director of Arizona Rock Products Association and the Arizona Mining Association, worked at the company headquarters just a block away from The Zone for several years.

Homeless people sitting down and standing on a sidewalk in front of a building by items and a tent in Long Beach

Source: kevin turcios/Unsplash

He told Fox News that the encampment was plagued by drug use, crime, lewd behavior, public urination, and much more. Trussell said it was “just tough to stomach when you’re seeing it first hand.”

Phoenix's Homeless City Was Putting People at Risk

Trussell went on to explain that the tent city was putting both his staff and customers at risk for years. He noted that people living in The Zone would threaten his staff, graffiti the company building, and were leaving trash all over the streets.

A close-up photograph of a pile of trash on a city street

Source: Reddit

Trussell even caught one many trying to break into his car and had to ask consistently ask people sleeping on its roof to leave so he could drive home.

Phoenix Business Owner Said the City Looks Like a Third World Country

Trussell went on to say, “It looks like a third world country. And I’ve been in third world countries on mission trips, and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing there.”

A man wearing a dark jacket and blue jeans lays on the side of the sidewalk

Source: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

Of course, Trussell wasn’t the only local resident who was wildly concerned with The Zone. Several others felt similarly and they finally got together and took action to try to save their neighborhood.

Judge Ordered the City of Phoenix to Dismantle The Zone

In 2023, several business and home owners from around The Zone filed a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix via the Maricopa County justice system.

A close-up of a wooden judge’s gavel


After hearing their complaints, the judge ruled in their favor and declared the encampment a public nuisance, ordering the city to dismantle it by November 4, 2023. 


The Zone Has Been Destroyed

Fortunately for local residents, the city did in fact destroy The Zone before the November deadline. However, it hasn’t necessarily fixed the problem.

A photograph of bulldozers destroying "The Zone" homeless encampment in Phoenix, Arizona

Source: ACLU Arizona

Trussell explained that while things have improved, he and his fellow residents are still dealing with disturbances on a weekly basis.


The Homeless Population Didn't Just Decrease Overnight

Even though the encampment was dismantled, the nearly 1,000 people living there are still on the streets of downtown Phoenix.

A photograph of people walking around a dismantled homeless encampment in Arizona

Source: Reddit

There are currently more than 9,600 people living without homes in Phoenix, Arizona, which is 3,000 more than in 2018. Many of whom still live around where the giant encampment once stood.


Crime Has Dropped by 50% Where The Zone Once Stood

According to the police data, the area that once housed the 1,000 residents living in The Zone has seen a 50% decrease in crime since it was destroyed.

Two police officers arrest a man in a green shirt and put him in handcuffs

Source: iStock

But Trussell reported, “It’s still pretty bad because we still have a lot of incidents in terms of folks walking in or people that are on drugs.” lined that he is still constantly picking up trash around his business and seeing lewd behavior in the alley ways.


Arizona Business Owners Are Sympathetic to the Homeless Population

Trussell and many other Phoenix residents are sympathetic to the thousands of people experiencing homelessness throughout the city.

A man wears a black jacket while sitting on the side of the street with a black dog wrapped in a red blanket

Source: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

However, they argue that the situation is simply unacceptable. Residents shouldn’t be scared to walk to work, have to put out trash can fires around their homes, or see rampant drug use in the streets on a daily basis.


Arizona Residents Will Vote on New Proposal in November

Thousands of Phoenix residents, including Trussell, believe that there is a far better way to handle the growing homeless population and that it’s the city’s responsibility to step up and make the necessary changes.

A black silhouette of a person posting a vote in a ballot box

Source: Element5 Digital/Unsplash

A new proposal will be on the November ballot which offers local businesses relief from costs they’ve had to endure from the homeless population, and Trussell says it’s a step in the right direction.


"Enough Is Enough"

Trussell told Fox News, “I think [the proposal will] go a long way to sending a message that enough’s enough. If [it] is creating some more accountability, then that’s fantastic. That’s exactly what we’d like to see.”

A photograph of the Arizona State Capitol building

Source: Wikipedia

At the end of the day, Phoenix residents like Trussell want to see the city help those experiencing homelessness, but they also want their businesses to thrive, their families safe, and their streets clean.