Cleanup begins on notorious heroin market along train tracks

- The long-awaited clean-up of Conrail tracks in Philadelphia’s Kensington and Fairhill sections where for years drug addicts went to get their fix is already forcing some addicts into surrounding neighborhoods and neighbors are not happy about it.

81-year-old Jose Roig grabs a seat on an old tree stump and settles in to watch "the show." Heavy equipment hauls away mountains of trash, including thousands upon thousands of drug needles.

A mess, years in the making, while the city turned a blind eye to the growing heroin epidemic centered in this neighborhood. Out of sight, out of mind.

But here, where Gurney Street meets Hope Street, Roig spends his days-- and nights-- dodging addicts on the prowl for money to feed their fix.

"You can't park your car over here because they'll break the glass,” he tells FOX 29's Bruce Gordon. “They'll break-in."

Disturbing the garbage has dredged up an awful odor and sent scurrying, the four-legged residents of this track bed: "You ought to see the rats coming out of there,” says Roig.  “Too many rats!"

The clean-up has produced other unintended consequences.

Nearby homeowners, schools and business complain that rousted addicts are invading their neighborhoods.

Not far from where workers were erecting new fencing to keep the heroin users from returning to the tracks, we met Britt Carpenter and Rosalind Pichardo. Both run organizations aimed at helping addicts. Both worry that the drug problem has simply been relocated.     

"To see this, this is amazing,” said Carpenter of The Philly Unknown Project as he gestures toward the heavy equipment.  “However if you take yourself four more blocks to Emerald street on the underpass, you've just taken a tent city population under there that has been about 15-to-20 people, and it's tripled."

Sure enough, an impromptu village was under construction, this time UNDER the railroad tracks on Emerald.

Moments before we arrived, Rosalind used her Narcan kit to revive a 30 year old over-dose victim here.

"She was bad,” said Pichardo.  “She was like, almost gone. Sad situation."

To be fair, the city is offering social services for addicts forced from the track bed.

But not everyone wants help, and some of those who do, don’t trust those offering the help.mBack on Hope street, Jose Roig says he hopes the track clean up makes things better But he's not convinced the drug addicts are gone for good.

"If police don't watch,” he said. “They're going to do the same thing."

Addicts coming right back "Oh, yeah."

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