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Organization angry after Phoenix police shut down event helping homeless

Posted at 8:46 PM, Dec 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-29 10:40:59-05

"Food is basically just a vehicle to get to know these individuals."

Krysten Aldridge with nonprofit One True Love doesn't just talk the talk.

"You talk to any one of these people that know us and they will tell you how we are different," said Aldridge, as dozens of folks living on the street come up to her with open arms Thursday.

On Saturday, her organization along with "Lets Be Better Humans" hosted their annual warm the streets of Phoenix event.

"The line stretched all the way down the block," said Aldridge. "We usually serve between 800 to 1,300 people."

It's an event she says that is as much about nourishing souls, as nourishing bellies.

"We come here to get to know them; to make sure they know we care and they are worthy of a helping hand," said Aldridge.

More than 60 volunteers hand out soup, blankets, and other essentials at 9th Avenue and Jackson Street; an area known for its large homeless population near the county's human services campus.

Aldridge says the eighth year of the event started off well — but after 30 minutes of it getting underway Phoenix police showed up and shut it down.

"Their biggest concern was fights and trash," said Aldridge. "They've never shut our event down before."

She says the group of volunteers was devastated. But according to the county, this fight is nothing new.

"We thank everybody who wants to come and help people who are experiencing homelessness, we just ask if we could better coordinate it," said Human Services Director Sheila Harris.

Harris says many times "street feeding" events lead to trash overflow at dumpsters and nearby neighborhoods. She also explained that it may slow down the process to get people off the streets permanently.

"I think people generally want to help and I think we've not done the best job to communicate to them how best to help," said Harris.

In fact, Harris says the group was actually in violation of a city ordinance as well. One that restricts any type of street feeding events around the Capital Mall and Human Services.

"We were never told we were violating an ordinance, not in all the years we've been doing this," said Aldridge. "We aren't here to feel good about ourselves, we're here to make them feel good and important."

Aldridge says she looks forward to working with the county in the future if that's what it takes to continue providing for those who have less.

"I want to find a solution so we can still come out and do the work that we're doing," said Aldridge.