Kensington protesters implore Philly to ‘stop the evictions’ as encampments deadline looms

“There’s not enough resources to get them all in a bed.”

People experiencing homelessness, outreach workers and Kensington residents protested the eviction of two encampments set for Wednesday at 10 a.m.

People experiencing homelessness, outreach workers and Kensington residents protested the eviction of two encampments set for Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn
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Wednesday at 10 a.m. marks a deadline Philadelphia officials imposed on a struggling section of the city.

At that time, the city plans to evict all the people experiencing homelessness who are living at two of the four Kensington-area encampments notorious for drug addiction. Residents, neighbors and outreach workers gathered Tuesday night in the first of two protests scheduled against the evictions — which some anticipate will cause more harm than good.

The city has promised a handful of resources for the people living there: food, clothing, medical care and more housing options, including about 40 shelter beds and a housing-first program.

“It’s good, but there’s not enough resources to get them all in a bed,” Nicole Bixler, who founded an encampment outreach nonprofit called Operation “In My Back Yard,” told Billy Penn. “They all live there no matter where they’re from now, and they could be any of us. We have to help them, not just kick them out.”

This reluctance on behalf of outreach workers is understandable. The Kensington Avenue evictions come more than a year after Philly first cleared out another notorious addiction encampment on the Contrail tracks at Gurney Street — a move that was long overdue for the city, but also largely considered a failure. Most Gurney Street residents with addiction relocated to new encampments, instead of treatment or more permanent housing.

“This time the plan is a lot better than Gurney Street,” Carol Rostucher, founder of the harm reduction group Angels in Motion, told Billy Penn. She said she’s noticed the city opened up more shelter beds than last year, and more people she knows seem to have entered treatment. “They are following up on what they’re saying. It is happening.”

Indeed, like Rostucher said, it is happening. Wednesday morning — despite some protests from the neighborhood — the city is set to clear out a couple encampments, delivering fines to those who don’t comply.

On the eve of evictions, Billy Penn attended Tuesday evening’s protest and live-tweeted what we saw.

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