PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A hearing in federal court Thursday on the future of three homeless encampments in Philadelphia has wrapped up with no decision. Judge Eduardo Robreno heard testimony from encampment dwellers and the city.
Next up, attorneys will have virtual oral arguments on Monday. The judge will then pour over everything and make a decision on the encampments by Wednesday.
Court has ended for the day. Judge Robreno will make a decision by next Wednesday. Encampment residents are feeling “hopeful”.
— Alecia Reid (@alecia__reid) August 20, 2020
On Thursday, a lawyer for the city asked each witness if they would accept a bed if offered. They all said no.
It’s not about getting a bed because a number of people have received temporary beds and then are back on the streets within days. They are interested in fair housing for all.
One witness is currently the head nurse at the Ben Franklin Parkway encampment. She has three children with another on the way. She is asthmatic, diabetic and her cervical cancer is in remission.
After spending time in and out of shelters, she says it’s safer living in an encampment.
A poverty and homelessness expert testified Thursday, saying encampment evictions are unsafe. She also said there are not enough shelter beds in the system to accommodate the number of people in the encampments.
COVID-19 has made the problem worse. There are about 12,000 beds available and upwards of 16,000 people in need of beds.
As arguments continued in the courtroom from both sides, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city was focused on efforts to assist encampment residents who wanted help, adding that the city has placed more than 100 people from the encampment in various degrees of shelter this week, including drug treatment facilities upon request.
At the same time, he acknowledged the final decision is now in the hands of Judge Robreno
“We’ll see what the judge says. I don’t want to speculate as to what the judge will or will not do. But if it’s a federal judge, we will abide by what the federal judge told us to do. We’re law-abiding and take our direction from the court when we’re directed. And we’ll see how it turns out. It’s a difficult situation to balance to have the needs of the folks, we understand the housing needs in this country. We have the needs and desires of people who live in both neighborhoods in North Philadelphia and out on the Parkway that are not happy with the situation. And we’re stuck in the middle trying to balance it all with very little resources,” Kenney said.
The defense says not only are the three encampments in the city unsafe, but they could also lead to outbreaks of hepatitis and other diseases.