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Cleanup held at Harrisburg homeless encampment as concerns mount over city's eviction order

The city has reportedly found a new place for people living in the encampment to relocate to.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — On Martin Luther King’s Day of Service, a group of volunteers spent Monday morning cleaning up the homeless encampment under the Mulberry Street Bridge.

“We’re trying to help clean up to try to change the mayor’s mind," said volunteer Magnolia Douglas.

The Belong Collective, a faith-based Harrisburg nonprofit, wants the city to reconsider its decision to evict the dozens of people living here.

The city cited a rise in crime and an infestation of rats as reasons for the eviction notice.

Douglas's group has started a petition, opposing the city's decision.

“Thursday’s the deadline, but it’s not here yet," said Justin Douglas, founder of The Belong Collective. "They can still remedy this problem, this can still turn the corner.”

If the Mayor’s office sticks to its guns, Douglas said he would like more time for nonprofits like his to mobilize and help.

“If they determine it’s absolutely essential that this community has to be displaced, a seven-day timeline is completely arbitrary and unnecessary. It’s putting people’s lives at risk," he explained.

Corrie Lingenfelter, interim executive director of the Downtown Daily Bread, one of the shelters whose caseworkers help at the encampment on a daily basis, said the last few days have been tough for the people living there.

“We know it needs to be cleaned, most of the residents are not in disagreement of that," she said. "But they are sad, it’s very emotional down here.”

She said there are still concerns that when Thursday comes, some of the people won’t leave.

“I’m probably sure we’ll have some that are like ‘We’re not going to go,'" she explained. "That’s to be expected, I would think we would expect this is not a welcome change for some of our folks here.”

According to Harrisburg's Director of Communications Matt Maisel, the city has found a new location for the people living in the encampment to relocate by Thursday.

In a series of tweets posted on Sunday, Maisel explained the location is not being disclosed by the city publicly "to respect the privacy of those who wish to live without unwanted attention, as well as the social services workers who will be working diligently this week to ensure this move happens."

Douglas says he knows where the proposed location is, and that it will only make the situation worse.

“It will further disenfranchise an already-disenfranchised community, that location," he said. "There’s a reason this community is under the cover of this bridge.”

FOX43 has been told the proposed location is near the Capital Area Greenbelt, a more than 20-mile trail that circles the entirety of the Pennsylvania capital region and is popular with walkers, runners and bikers.

We reached out to the Capital Area Greenbelt Association, a group that has worked to improve, maintain, and protect the Greenbelt, for comment on the proposed location.

David Misner, PR and Communications Chair for Capital Area Greenbelt Association, provided this statement:

"We understand that the current situation involving the homeless encampment under the Mulberry Street Bridge poses serious health concerns that must be addressed. We have been ensured by city officials this proposed temporary location will not inhibit the safety and enjoyability of Capital Area Greenbelt users. We look forward to working with the City of Harrisburg on implementing this space and making sure these individuals have a safe place to stay."

Maisel said Mayor Wanda Williams or another city representative were not available on Monday for an interview.

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