Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mill Avenue/ Project SIT

Bing, a homeless man who spends the weekends on Mill Avenue playing his electric guitar for money. Source: Michael Cary Photography,

Mill Avenue on a slow day. Source: Allie Desrochers
West of the ASU Tempe Campus, running north and south from University Dr. to Rio Salado Pkwy

Project SIT is a movement to protect the rights of the homeless. Tempe passed several ordinances preventing “urban camping”, or sitting and sleeping on the streets from 1992 to 1998, especially on historic Mill Avenue in Tempe, right around the corner from Arizona State University. Many of these laws place bus stops and benches in the category of a park, allowing the law to stretch to places where homeless people are likely to take a break for a meal or just to rest. Homelessness is now basically criminalized, ranging from hefty fees to a month or more of jail time.

Mill Avenue is known locally for the large amounts of homeless people who linger, rest, and even set up camp and sleep right on the sidewalk. In 2004, protestors from The Free to Camp Coalition and East Valley Food Not Bombs, as well as others, marched down Mill Ave to protect homeless rights just before the mayoral election. Then, in 2006, a court ruling in San Francisco threatened the Tempe urban camping ordinance by stating that it is a violation of the Eight Amendment, which bans the use of cruel and unusual punishment. The ordinance violates that amendment in Los Angeles because the homeless shelters there were too full and left no place for the homeless to sleep besides the streets, and the same goes in Tempe because there is not a single homeless shelter in the entire city.

Tempe currently has no homeless shelters and the local government has done nothing to change that, and also has no publicly known plans to build a shelter anytime in the near future. This form of activism may not be racially fueled, but it is certainly prejudiced against the transient and homeless population of Tempe and the surrounding areas because there is no effort to change on the government’s behalf. The overall idea here is that the homeless are seen victims who place bad reputations on the places they occupy, like Mill Avenue in Tempe. It is an assumption that the homeless live the way they do because they have no other choice, or they made the decision based on other things outside of their control, such as drug addiction. The public spaces that the transient community occupy are becoming more and more privatized, thus taking basic constitutional rights from humans.

- Allie Desrochers, Jake Powell, and Bill Harden


Amster, Randall. (2008). Lost in space: The criminalization, globalization and urban ecology of homelessness. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.

Amster, Randall. (2004). Street people and the contested realms of public space. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.

De La Rosa Aceves, Aurelia Marie. (2011). Phoenix's Place for the Homeless: Stories from the Maricopa County Human Services Campus.

Harmon, Abbilyn. (2011, October 12). Antipode [Review of Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization and Urban Ecology of Homelessness]. Retrieved from:

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