KENSINGTON (WTXF) - Clearing out and cleaning up the open-air drug haven along the Conrail track bed in Philadelphia’s Kensington and Fairhill sections appears to be simply pushing drug addicts from one location to another.
At Kensington Avenue, just north of Lehigh, a large and growing encampment of the addicted and the homeless has turned this already rough neighborhood into a war zone. 39-year-old Nicole Stevens walks through the battlefield every day on her way to the local methadone clinic.
"It's a struggle every day. It's not easy," she told FOX 29.
Addicted to painkillers after a car accident at 19, Nicole is now trying to get and stay clean.
"I go by there every day and it breaks your heart seeing these people out there. Sleeping there, you worry, are they going to freeze to death at night?"
Back in July and August, the City of Philadelphia teamed up with Conrail to clean up the nearby railroad tracks and roust addicts who had made this Ground Zero for the city's heroin epidemic. The fear at the time was that those addicted would simply move to a new location to get their fix.
Business owners just up the street from the Kensington encampment say the Conrail cleanup has been a disaster for their neighborhood by increasing drug use, crime, prostitution and vandalism.
Orlando Torres is co-owner of a shop that sells and repairs lawn equipment and snowblowers.
"You watch them shoot themselves in the neck across the street. I mean, you could go on and on and on," he said.
Nicole Stevens says she is two months clean but walks through the encampment on her way to the methadone clinic each day in part as a cautionary tale.
When Philadelphia and Conrail teamed up to clear out the heroine encampment along Kensington RR tracks back in July and August, the fear was that drug users would simply move to nearby neighborhoods. Guess what happened? My report at 5/6/10 @fox29philly pic.twitter.com/VgmEavtdTV— Bruce Gordon (@BGordonFox29) November 27, 2017