Final few stragglers evicted from Kensington tunnel encampments

Pat Loeb
May 30, 2018 - 5:50 pm
Ad hoc protest of today's planned eviction of Kensington tunnels

Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — By the time trash trucks rolled down Tulip Street and Kensington Avenue, removing a six-month accretion of mattresses, blankets and tents, more than 100 people had accepted services, but — even as their belongings were carted away — others just were not ready.

"With how bad my addiction is, I need to hit rock bottom and never forget where I came from in order to get myself together and stay clean," said one woman who lived in one of two Kensington tunnels, which many homeless people unofficially called home.

But those encampments are now gone after a 30-day pilot program to coax the residents into shelter or drug treatment. For the past month, outreach workers convinced more than 100 people into either of those options.

RELATED: Deadline looms for clearing Kensington encampments: 'I really have nowhere to go'

City officials consider the program largely a success. Only about 30 people remained in the two tunnels when outreach workers and then police came to enforce the eviction.

City workers came with bins and bags, offering to store belongings.

"If you do not voluntarily leave, the city will be issuing you a code violation notice and any property left here will be disposed of permanently," exclaimed an officer.

The remaining campers left reluctantly but quietly. Trash trucks took away remaining debris and street sweepers followed behind them. The only confrontations were between neighbors who were happy to see the campers go and advocates who were protesting the eviction.

Two other encampments remain in Kensington. City officials said they don't have the resources to clear those.

"I'm fine with that," said camper Rose of the eviction. "I have to be. I'm just going wherever my feet take me, wherever the Lord takes me. As long as I keep him first, I know I'll be fine."