Philadelphia officials work to clear homeless encampments, support residents

Philadelphia police and other city agencies have been working to clear out the last of four major homeless encampments in the Kensington neighborhood.

The effort is part of a multi-phase plan that was created in an effort to improve the quality of life for everyone in the area.

Though Kensington has long had addiction-related homelessness, encampments at Emerald, Tulip, Frankford, and Kensington Streets along Lehigh grew when access to the freight tracks was shut down nearly two years ago. Some of those encampments were shut down months ago.

Those staying in the encampments say some fear being pushed too far away from Kensington's ready supply of drugs. City officials have been trying to curb that by offering as much access to programs as they can.

Terrence Thomas, who was packing up his tent, says problems arise when programs expire. That's how he got to Emerald.

"When I completed the program, you know they kind of screwed me over. They let me go on the side of the curb at Broad and Brown. With two big bags, and the homeless shelter didn't have space for me. Didn't have no rooms available," Thomas explained.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia officials are striving to make progress in the face of wildly escalating opioid addiction statistics, and related homelessness.

"Eight months ago, we resolved the first two of our four encampments. Today, 44 percent of those on our by-name list from the Kensington and Tulip encampments are housed or in treatment. That's 83 out of 189 people," Liz Hersh, Philly's Director of Homeless Services, explained Thursday.

She added that Philly's success in clearing the camps, and finding services for some of those who had lived in them, could serve as a national model.

Hersh stopped by Good Day Philadelphia Friday morning to talk more about the city's efforts.