PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Shining a light on one of the darkest corners of the city, where the drug trade often hides in plain sight, was a group gathered Saturday for a massive effort to clean up Kensington. Their goal was simple: make Kensington safer.
Scattered throughout Kensington, volunteers wearing red or blue vests are hoping to make this neighborhood brighter. Cleaning up one piece of trash at a time.
“I walk down here at nights and see all the drug addicts,” said Wade Knight, a volunteer, “and I know they need help.”
Knight joined hundreds of other volunteers, plus city workers to clean up the streets. It’s all part of the Philadelphia Resilience Project, the city’s strike against the opioid crisis.
“The opioid crisis has definitely impacted our residents’ quality of live day-to-day,” said Joanna Otero-Cruz, deputy managing director of community services.
This initiative grew out of an executive order Mayor Jim Kenney signed last October, declaring a state of emergency due to the drug epidemic.
To continue the fight, Kenney announced during his budget address Thursday a proposed $36 million investment in the Resilience Project.
“We have to continue to do education and prevention efforts,” said Otero-Cruz. “We have to continue to do – how do we get people off the streets?”
“The reality of coming out your door and seeing 700 homeless people, utilization of drugs and other things. Project Resilience and cleanups like today is really about sending a message to long-term residents that we care,” said city councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez.
Some residents do see that.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Dana Smith, of Kensington. “It’s bad down here. I’m just glad they’re doing something down here. They been should’ve did it, but it’s never too late, I guess.”
Volunteers know they have their work cut out for them.
“We will continue to be with them, alongside them, to battle the eradication of opioid addiction,” said Otero-Cruz.
In its three recent large-scale cleanups in this neighborhood, volunteers removed more than 275 tons of trash and debris and 300 abandoned cars.