Homeowners terrified as non-profits say homeless now looking for help in other neighborhoods

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For years, the homeless in Phoenix have lived around West Jefferson, an area littered with trash, drugs, and sleeping bags. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) For years, the homeless in Phoenix have lived around West Jefferson, an area littered with trash, drugs, and sleeping bags. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
But representatives with Mayor Greg Stanton’s office said the homeless population is growing and services to help them are dwindling. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) But representatives with Mayor Greg Stanton’s office said the homeless population is growing and services to help them are dwindling. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
An innocent homeowner was murdered in March, by a man investigators said was homeless. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) An innocent homeowner was murdered in March, by a man investigators said was homeless. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Mug shot of the alleged suspect, 38-year-old Curtis Bagley. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Mug shot of the alleged suspect, 38-year-old Curtis Bagley. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

An innocent homeowner was murdered in March, by a man investigators said was homeless.

The crime happened on Willetta Street, a quaint Phoenix neighborhood. 

While an arrest has been made, many neighbors remain on edge, as local non-profits said the homeless problem in downtown Phoenix is not only growing but spreading. 

But is there a solution? 

“They’re gorgeous homes, they’re expensive homes,” said Lisa Saper-Bloom. 

[ORIGINAL STORY: Man accused of terrorizing central Phoenix neighborhood, starting a fire, killing 1 man]

Just blocks away from the Phoenix city skyscrapers, you’ll find the charm and character of West Portland Street, where you’ll find resident Lisa Saper-Bloom. 

“It is a phenomenal neighborhood, my husband and I have lived in the Valley for 28, almost 29 years and there’s no place we’d rather live,” said Saper-Bloom.

But this picturesque scene is quickly changing. 

“You know Briana, I’ll be honest I never thought I’d be walking with a weapon in my pocket every morning either,” said Saper-Bloom. 

Just down the street from Saper-Bloom’s house, Erik Erspamer’s manicured front lawn has now turned into an unwanted bedroom. 

"Often I’ll have transients sleeping in my front yard. It’s irritating on a daily basis. The real scary part is the safety issue,” said Erspamer.

For years, the homeless in Phoenix have lived around West Jefferson, an area littered with trash, drugs, and sleeping bags. But representatives with Mayor Greg Stanton’s office said the homeless population is growing and services to help them are dwindling. 

Homeowners like Saper-Bloom said transients are now making their way into other neighborhoods like hers, looking for resources as downtown development continues to push them elsewhere. She said she was recently followed by a homeless man for days and when she gave police a description, what she found out was shocking.          

"When I went to identify this person it turns out that this person had beaten a person in broad daylight over on Third Avenue and Culver Street and his name is on a list of names in a homicide case,” said Saper-Bloom. 

Come September, St. Vincent De Paul plans to shut its county-funded overflow shelter. That’s 275 beds that will be gone. 

The State of Arizona only budgets $873,000 in the general fund for homeless services per year, a number the governor’s office confines to us and said hasn’t changed over the past decade, even though the homeless population has grown. To put that number into perspective, Massachusetts, a state similar to Arizona in population, spends $191,000,000 on homeless services per year, according to their 2017 budget. 

And that’s left Phoenix with this reality. 

[READ MORE: Wife 'grief stricken' following alleged murder of husband; Phoenix neighborhood worried by rise of crime]

“They’re just moving from place to place the homeless people, wherever they get run off.”

Veteran Aaron Duchene sees a big problem. Because he’s living among it. 

“Here I am 66 years old and I’m still out here somewhere … nowhere to go,” said Duchene. 

He doesn’t want to be on the streets. 

“Do I look like I’m homeless? Look at how clean I am. There are places to shower ma’am,” said Duchene. 

But he’s on the streets because his car is all he has left right now. He said he has watched many dangerous homeless people wandering into neighborhoods they haven’t before, and feels for those homeowners. 

“Do you think that a lot of these people are dangerous? Yeah, I’ve been beaten up here. Right now I’ve got a hip injury,” said Duchene. 

And that’s left non-profits like Unite Phoenix focused on finding a solution. 

“The main need right now is short-term housing,” said Eric Elliott with Unite Phoenix. 

The mayor’s office said there also isn’t enough funding for mental health programs or affordable housing for the homeless, pleading for the state to spend more to help. 

But homeowners are done waiting. 

[MORE: Concerns over homeless camp in downtown Phoenix]

“We need to find a way to provide better shelter and care,” said Erspamer. 

“We need to take our neighborhood back. We need to fight for funding,” said Saper-Bloom. 

The governor’s office said when they recently proposed to build a re-entry center for homeless people leaving correctional facilities, they got opposition from local businesses and residents who didn’t want it near them and canceled the project. They said they’re now looking for new approaches, but no concrete plan has been put into place yet. 

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