PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City of Philadelphia has issued a mandatory closure of a homeless encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In a formal notice Friday, officials said all the tents must be removed no later than July 17.
This comes after four weeks of negotiations between city officials and those living there. Talks between the city and encampment leadership broke down over the past few days.
“We feel unfortunately at this point that we needed to take this action and post a notice that the camp would need to close no later than 9 a.m. on July 17,” Deputy Managing Director of Health and Human Services Eva Gladstein said.
The encampment of about 100 people formed along the Parkway last month as a way to protest the lack of affordable housing in the city. The city says public health and safety are at the root of this decision.
“During the last four weeks, we have done a lot of work in trying to support the demands of that group,” Gladstein said, “including offering and providing beds at our COVID prevention space, accelerating our work on a tiny house village, agreeing to develop permanent housing plans for all the homeless individuals at the camp and offering to enter into a concentrated planning process around the process of sanctioned encampment elsewhere in the city, not at this site. There will need to be significant cleanup to get the fields back to being a public space that’s usable by everybody.”
Since the encampment formed, there have been two stabbings and an overdose death in the camp, officials said.
Many people living in the encampment told city officials they will not leave despite the closure deadline.
“We’re hopeful that people will leave on their own accord,” Gladstein said.
Prior to the closure, the city says it will ramp up its efforts to offer services to the camp residents. Officials will hold a “Homeless Connect” resource event on July 15 and 16. Service representatives from the departments of Health, Behavioral Health and Homeless Services will be present on the Parkway near the camp.
“Teams will offer to work intensively with participants to connect them to services and begin the process of developing a plan that will lead to permanent housing,” Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services, said. “It is the City’s goal that by the end of next week, everyone in that camp will have a plan and a place to go right away — if the camp organizers allow. We are heartbroken that we have not been able to do more to help people. This camp cannot continue, but the unmet needs of homeless people remain. And we remain resolute in our work to end homelessness.”
City officials would not elaborate on how they plan to remove the encampment or whether police will be involved. They say they will have a number of services available for those here next week in hopes of getting people into shelters and safe housing.
CBS3’s Natasha Brown contributed to this report.