PHOENIX - An attempt to help the homeless on July 3 was cut short after police officers told organizers to leave the area.
An organization called Hearts for the Homeless AZ was hosting its second annual 'Barbecue For The Homeless' near 7th Avenue and Jefferson Street, and about an hour into the event, Phoenix Police arrived, and officers told the organization they were trespassing, and would have to leave.
Before the event was shut down, volunteers provided food, water, clothes and other items for those in need.
Organization founder Gerrie Hanke says the situation downtown is the worst she has ever seen it.
"There's a lot of different reasons why people are out in the street," said Hanke. "Not necessarily what people think. A lot of the housing is pushing them down here."
"A lot of people dying from the heat, and especially right now. There are so many elderly, and I'm seeing more and more families every week on the street," said Michele Tallberg with Backpacks 4 Kids AZ. "If we all try to make a difference one day, and, you know, believe in people and show them that people care and that they can do it, people will."
Organizers say they have held similar events on the property in the past, without any issues.
Phoenix police official responds
We reached out to Phoenix Police about the incident, and on July 4, Sgt. Philip Krynsky released a statement on the matter that reads:
"Yesterday, Phoenix Police officers were in the area of 9th Avenue and Madison Street when they saw a group of around 100 people in the parking lot of a commercial business. The officers saw multiple pop-up tents, trucks, vehicles with clothing, and people giving out food. The officers spoke to the event coordinator, and they learned the group had not obtained permission from the property owner to conduct the event on private property. There were several ‘no trespassing’ signs posted throughout the property and the owners had previously completed an Authority to Arrest Trespassers form. The officers recommended other locations nearby where the group could set up, legally. The group moved to one of those locations across the street to continue the event.
In the past, other events such as this one have left large amounts of trash and perishable food behind which create a health concern for the same residents [they're] attempting to assist. We respect the efforts of community members to assist some of our most vulnerable population. We ask that these efforts are planned appropriately, legally, and with the proper permits if perishable food will be distributed."
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