PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — These are tough times for all of us but perhaps even more so for the homeless population. The city is now allowing dozens of homeless people to stay overnight in a Philadelphia International Airport terminal, and for airport employees, there are some major safety concerns.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Terminal A at the Philadelphia International Airport was a busy hub. Airport officials say it is open but since international flights are not arriving, it’s not being used for passengers.
But when night falls, it is being used to house some in the homeless population.
“I’ve seen an increase of homeless people at the airport,” said an airport baggage handler who wished to remain anonymous.
The baggage handler shared some concerns with CBS3, saying airport police round up homeless men and women daily and bring them to Terminal A East to stay overnight.
“You see them sometimes sprawled out on the floor,” the employee said.
CBS3 cameras recorded about two dozen men and women inside the area. Signs posted on open terminal doors direct the homeless population to Terminal A East.
“Instead of directing them to a homeless shelter, they are directing them down to the terminal, which is confusing to me. I wonder why,” the baggage handler said.
Eyewitness News spoke with Florence Brown, the director of communications for the airport. She says the airport is one of the places homeless are going because it is safe.
“To be clear, the city is not sending anyone to Philadelphia International Airport to be housed. It is accurate to say that individuals have been gathering there and that the airport has allowed them to stay overnight, but the airport is not being used as an ad-hoc shelter,” Brown said, in part.
“They’re in a small confined space at night at the airport. If one person contracts the virus and brings it back to everybody in there, imagine how many people in there could be infected,” the baggage handler said. “It’s just going to spread and spread and spread. It’s not healthy.”
The employee says social distancing requirements are not being followed and the terminal is not being cleaned regularly.
“There is no one there that is cleaning. There is not a cleaning crew that comes in and sanitizes. I want to see them directed to at least a homeless shelter,” the employee said.
The airport spokesperson says deep cleaning is still being done daily, including in Terminal A East but this is an unprecedented time, which is why the homeless population is being allowed to stay overnight at the airport.