PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (FOX 29) - In the epicenter of Philadelphia's heroin epidemic in Kensington, a longtime facility aimed at helping those dealing with addiction may soon have to close. It's called 'The Last Stop' and the city says it's not playing by the rules.
FOX 29's Bruce Gordon reports.
"I was sleeping under the bridge." Former heroin addict John Bush heads for 'The Last Stop', which is the last hope for many drug and alcohol abusers in the troubled neighborhood.
"If it wasn't for Eddie, I could be dead now. I could say he saved my life—quite a few times," he said.
Eddie is Eddie Zampitella. They call him 'Eddie Z' and he is the man in charge. Zampitella showed FOX 29's Bruce Gordon a wall inscribed with the names of those now clean and sober helped by 'The Last Stop' over the past 20 years with the past two at the correct location.
He insists his facility is simply a nightly meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous—nothing more.
"You feed folks here?" FOX 29's Bruce Gordon asked. Zampitella said, "Yeah, Wednesday, hot dogs and beans, Sundays, spaghetti and meatballs." Gordon asked, "People sleep overnight here?" Zampitella replied, "No, because I don't, no. One guy does because we had a couple break-ins, but one guy sleeps here."
That's important because the city has filed a lawsuit against 'The Last Stop', claiming it violates zoning laws and fire safety codes and that more goes on here than simply AA and NA meetings.
"When you have folks sleeping someplace, there are certain requirements that have to be met to keep them safe from fire," City Licenses and Inspections spokeswoman Karen Guss said.
"You have to be a good neighbor and he has not been a good neighbor and he cannot use the patients and the clients he wants to help as a reason to justify him not meeting the basic standards," Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez said.
Fines dating back to the city's first inspection back in September of 2017, now total more than $1.7 million, but the city says it's not about the money.
"The fact that it adds up to $1.7 million that's a lot of time not doing what you need to be doing," Guss said.
Zampitella says the city misunderstands what he does here. He insists he's confident he'll be able to convince them of his mission and his motives.
This lawsuit goes to court on March 12. Zampitella is asking those he's helped to show up in support.