What was originally supposed to be a neighborhood meeting, turned into a town hall.
Dozens of downtown Phoenix residents gathered at Phoenix City Hall on Wednesday to discuss new ways to manage the city’s homeless and transient population.
The meeting comes days after police arrested a man they say broke into a couple’s home in the Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood near McDowell Road and Central Avenue, and fatally stabbed 36-year-old resident Joshua Fitzpatrick.
Mayor Greg Stanton participated in the discussion, leading off with a moment of silence for Fitzpatrick. He was joined by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), along with state representatives, three members of Phoenix City Council, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, city staff, and several representatives of local social service agencies.
Following a brief welcome by Roosevelt resident Karl Obergh, introductions were made by Downtown Voices Coalition Chair Tim Eigo, who served as moderator of the nearly three-hour discussion.
One by one, many residents expressed concerns about public safety in the downtown area, and asked the city to focus on curbing its rising homeless population.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams promised increased efforts from law enforcement, but she also encouraged community members to be as vigilant as possible.
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this situation,” Williams said. “I’m asking every member of the community to do their part to keep the city safe.”
Attendees, which included neighbors of Fitzpatrick, pressed a panel of city officials with tough questions throughout the night.
According to Williams, the man accused of killing Fitzpatrick had been arrested over 30 times. He was released from jail a few weeks ago, and lived in the streets before the alleged murder. He’s currently being held in Maricopa County Jail.
Congressman Gallego said Phoenix is dealing with a national problem, one that should be addressed.
“The solution needs to be a full government response, on the state and national level,” Gallego said. “This is a multi-faceted problem that’s been going on for decades. Keep pushing your government to make changes and increase funding.”
The dialogue remained civil throughout the night. While everyone there had a chance to speak, city officials reiterated that the problem couldn’t be solved overnight.
“If I had all the answers, I’d give them to you,” Williams said. “This is only the beginning, the first steps to finding a solution.”
Before the meeting came to a close, a follow-up meeting to further the conversation was discussed.
A gofundme account has been set up to support the Fitzpatrick family.