By Alecia Reid

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City officials broke up a homeless encampment in Kensington Wednesday afternoon, with outreach teams tearing down the Kensington Avenue and Westmoreland Street encampment.

Garbage trucks then came by and picked up all the trash and hosed the street and sidewalk down. The homeless encampment has been there for a number of months. Some are heartbroken over the removal.

“A lot of people think this is a choice, that these people want to be out here, which is absolutely not true,” Malcolm Lewis of Kensington said. “When you educate yourself on addiction you’ll see this isn’t a choice. It starts off as a choice but then it grows roots into your body. It changes things in your brain then it becomes the toughest fight of your life.”

City officials tell CBS3 they’ve been engaging since the end of May and posted notices a month ago that those tents had to be removed by Aug. 18 in order to comply with city code.

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The city was growing increasingly worried about the safety and well-being of the people in these encampments, as well as families living in the area.

There’s also a smaller encampment at Kensington and Lehigh Avenues. That camp is pretty new but will be dissolved as well on Wednesday.

While some folks packed up and moved before Wednesday morning, resources were made available for those still camped out, including housing and physical and behavioral health care.

“These people need compassion and they need support,” Lewis said.

Storage is also being provided for those individuals.

“There’s an array of opportunities for them,” Deputy Managing Director Eva Gladstein said. “It’s to try to get them the pathway to make sure they’re safe, particularly in this public health crisis. They have a roof over their head. They have bathrooms and showers and regular meals and whatever kind of medical care they might need or want.” 

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Homeless outreach is a year-round effort in the city. The deputy managing director tells CBS3 outreach teams are out around the clock every day of the week connecting people to services.