Plan B: Phoenix now plans homeless shelter campus at 71st Avenue and Van Buren Street

Phoenix plans to build a 300-person homeless shelter in the southwest portion of the city, after its first-choice site for the campus last year found significant levels of contamination.

The 7-acre "Phoenix Navigation Center" is expected to open in summer 2024 at 71st Avenue and Van Buren Street, tucked behind the Sleep Outfitters Distribution Center just east of the Target Distribution Center.

The campus will be bounded by an iron fence and house 200 communal shelter beds under semi-permanent tent-like structures, 80 shipping container units, a communal area, 14 RV parking spots and a dog run and kennel, according to Phoenix's Office of Homeless Solutions. Navigation services will be provided to help individuals connect to services to end their homelessness.

The shelter will prioritize those experiencing homelessness in the vicinity and require a referral for those intending to use the site, meaning no walk-up service. Community Bridges Inc. will operate the campus and provide behavioral health services, while St. Vincent de Paul will provide food and workforce assistance.

The site will give a permanent home to the shipping container units, called "X-wings," that were temporarily placed at other shelter locations in Phoenix after original plans for the Lower Buckeye Road shelter at 22nd Avenue were scrapped after finding alarming levels of methane and toxic carcinogens.

The 200 beds are part of the city's 790 shelter beds currently under construction ahead of the 2024 heat season, Office of Homeless Solutions Director Rachel Milne told the City Council at a meeting on Feb. 27.

The 71st Avenue shelter will not require City Council approval to be built because the city already owns the land and the land is zoned appropriately, but it will need council approval for operations and will need to secure a use permit from a zoning adjustment hearing officer because of its proximity to residential neighborhoods.

Phoenix's Office of Homeless Solutions has delayed the hearing twice so far. City spokesperson Kristin Couturier said it was to gather more input from concerned neighbors. The hearing currently is scheduled for March 28.

Couturier said the city was working on adding multiple stipulations to its use permit to address concerns that the campus will draw more homelessness and vandalism to the area or reduce property values. Some residents also are concerned about the campus being roughly a mile away from Fowler Elementary School and about a quarter mile from a neighborhood.

How the city plans to address community concerns

The most notable stipulation is the creation of a 15-member advisory committee, of which half must come from community members, business owners, school district employees or other stakeholders in the community who reside or work within 1.5 miles of the shelter, according to city documents. The advisory committee would meet monthly leading up to the campus opening and quarterly thereafter, Couturier said.

The permit also would include six-month and 18-month reviews of the permit to ensure the city's compliance, with advanced notification sent to nearby property homeowners, the Si Se Puede Neighborhood Association and the Fowler Elementary School District.

Other stipulations include creating an "operational plan" that outlines security and coordination with police, code of conduct rules, and site design to reduce crime.

The Office of Homeless Solutions also is creating a Good Neighbor Agreement, which Couturier said will lay out "how the city and shelter provider will work with the neighborhood to promptly address concerns."

The agreement is in draft form but so far includes curfews, bans on campus visitors and illicit drugs, rules for backgrounding campus attendees, and rules for contacting neighbors regarding issues at the campus.

Phoenix purchased the 71st Avenue site from the Maricopa County Flood Control District in 2013, according to Maricopa County Assessor's Office records. City documents say the land currently is being used as a retention basin.

'Find a way to make this happen': Phoenix planned homeless shelter on land contaminated for decades

Taylor Seely covers Phoenix for The Arizona Republic and Reach her at or by phone at 480-476-6116.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix plans homeless shelter at 71st Avenue and Van Buren Street