By Greg Argos


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia leaders took another major step to close homeless encampments in the neighborhoods. For months, a stretch of the Vine Street Expressway near 18th Street was where about 30 homeless people lived.

They are gone now, just a few items left behind and it’s all because of a newly expanded program by the City of Philadelphia.

“This was a social service-led initiative and from past experiences, we were able to get a significant number of people placed out of these encampments,” Philadelphia Office of Homelessness Chief of Staff David Holloman said.

Six people have been placed in shelters from Monday’s closure alone and 14 more since November, according to Holloman.

The protocol used on Monday was the same used in 2019 when a large encampment in Kensington was removed.

Notices go up at least 30 days before and outreach volunteers go in.

credit: CBS3

“We went out every week and said, ‘Hey, what would it take for you to come in?’” Holloman said.

It’s a process that will continue.

“It’s something we’re looking to do citywide,” Holloman added.

He estimates there are 1,000 homeless people within the city limits — one of them included is Barry.

His homeless story began in 2018 when he and his wife arrived in Philadelphia seeking treatment for her cancer.

“She passed away. I became homeless from being depressed, winded up here in the streets. Don’t do alcohol, don’t drink, don’t do drugs,” he said.

Like many others, Barry now calls the tunnel underneath of the Convention Center home. He says he is afraid to use the city’s shelters.

“The shelter system actually, you’re safer on the streets. You get robbed, you get raped, you get jumped. Out here on the streets, you see all the cameras around. The police watch as they ride through here,” he said.

This is why his ultimate goal — and the city’s — is to help the homeless find permanent housing.

“When you’re out here, you kind of lose your dignity. But having a stable place to stay, somewhere to wake up in the morning — it helps builds you back up,” Barry said.

This isn’t just an issue the city is trying to solve.

The Convention Center Authority is pledging to match up to $500,000 from any organization or group to help find permanent housing for the homeless.