Conrail clean-up pushing addicts to new locations

- 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 heroin addicts from one location to another.

Under the watchful eye of Philadelphia police, city sanitation crews loaded soiled mattresses into their trucks, Monday morning-- just part of the miniature Shanty Town set up by heroin users under the railroad overpass on Emerald street near Lehigh.

Among the personal effects left behind, plenty of drug needles and a 15-inch knife, sheathed but ready for trouble.

Just up the block, a longtime resident, too frightened to show her face, said of the clean-up, 'it's about time.'

"I don't let my grandkids come here, because of this situation,” she told FOX 29s Bruce Gordon.  “This is not an environment for children." 

FOX 29 visited the Emerald street encampment last Friday, after locals told us its population had more than doubled in the several days since the city's clean-up dislodged them from the track bed near Lehigh Ave. and Gurney Street.

Activist Rosalind Pichardo, of Operation Save Our City was on hand for Monday morning's rousting.

She felt it was handled with a decided lack of compassion and wonders what good it will do.

"They're going to move somewhere else,” said Pichardo.  “Just like they moved from Gurney street to here, from here they're going to find another spot.  And they're not solving the problem, by shifting these people all around the city."

Just up the block, we saw another sign of the heroin crisis and its impact on neighborhoods.

Elvis Rosado is outreach coordinator for Prevention Point.

On Monday, he was training Philadelphia's CLIP crews-- the folks who come out and clean up trash -and-graffiti covered properties-- to safely handle the drug needles now littering vacant lots across the city.

Nerve-wracking work?

"Yeah, it can be,” said Rosado.  “I mean, nobody wants to get stuck with a needle and then not know what's in the syringe or ‘am I infected with something?'"

By midday, there was hardly a hint of the thriving drug village that had been here just hours earlier.

But no one was kidding themselves about what lies ahead.

While the city is offering services to heroin addicts, they have to want the help and be willing to battle through their recovery.

Gordon asked that frightened neighbor up the street whether she was optimistic that the underpass would stay clean and un-populated by drug users.  No, she answered.

They’ll be back?

“Yes.”

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