12 people homeless after church fire in downtown Phoenix

Grace Pointe Church near 3rd Street and McDowell Road doubled as a shelter for the homeless.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:14 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A dozen people are looking for a place to stay after a big fire broke out at a downtown Phoenix church early Tuesday morning. Phoenix fire crews say it happened around 4 a.m. at the Grace Pointe Church near 3rd Street and McDowell Road. When firefighters showed up, they found massive smoke and flames coming from the roof. Twelve people inside got out safely. Phoenix Fire Capt. Todd Keller says because of the amount of smoke, crews had to call a first alarm emergency, meaning many more firefighters and trucks would be needed to put out the flames. While they were fighting the flames, they discovered the roof had partially collapsed.

The church doubled as a shelter for the homeless. The mission group, who used to live on the street, was helping people deal with substance abuse issues and used their faith to get them back on their feet. “This is literally the homeless helping the homeless,” said program director Aaron Walters. He used to serve in the military overseas before becoming homeless himself.

He says he’s cured of the PTSD and night horrors that once put him on the street. But now he’s reliving the trauma of Tuesday morning’s fire that all but destroyed his house of God. “I was just awestruck. I was just thinking this has to be God’s will somehow. I don’t know how he’s going to work it out but he’s going to work it out,” said Walters.

One person had to be taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation but no firefighters were hurt. Invesigators are still working to learn what led up to the fire. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the church.