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Phoenix’s homeless go missing during the Final Four

Missing in action: Phoenix’s homeless not on view for Final Four

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Consider the case of the missing homeless.

Invisible in the crowds that swarmed downtown for last weekend’s Final Four events were the street people of Phoenix.

They didn’t show up in unusual numbers at the Central Arizona Shelter Services nor at the overflow shelter at St. Vincent de Paul. Wherever we could,” said Brian Noeo, who is 58 and said he’s been on the streets on and off for seven years.

While the community celebrated a big sporting event, life got inconvenient for a small knot of people who spend most of their days in Hance Park.

“They walled it off so we had to walk all the way around (to go to a nearby church for assistance). They did that for us,” Noeo said.

Over at CASS, development director J. David Smith said he had heard that people “had been swept from the park” and other public places in anticipation of the events. Similar stories surfaced in London during the Olympics and are common stories at soccer World Cup tournaments.

“I have heard the city has been doing outreach to relocate people from the park,” Smith said

.

But the folks who spend more time in the park than anyone are nonplussed by the city’s efforts to breathe new life into the area.

“It makes their world look bad during an event when they want to make money,” said 48-year-old Jo Jo, who stays in Hance Park during the days and has been on the streets eight years.

She didn’t want to give her last name because she feared people on the street would steal it.

But she, and others in a small group near Burton Barr Central Library said they were driven off by police, and that’s nothing new.

Noeo recounted a confrontation a week earlier in which police moved homeless people seven times in one day along a three-block stretch of Roosevelt Street. I talked to the park boss and he said it was okay, as long as we picked up our mess like we always do,” Noeo said.

For his group, the NCAA tournament was just another, perhaps more glaring, an example of the disparities and hypocrisies they see every day.

“When people talk to us, they treat us differently,” Jo Jo said. “It’s the most humbling experience in the world to go in the median and beg. Living on the street is not easy.”

Even worse is, as one man in Hance Park put it Friday:

“We were in the way.”

Source: Missing in action: Phoenix’s homeless not on view for Final Four | Phoenix New Times