HARRISBURG, Pa. — While the homeless encampment under the Mulberry Street Bridge in Harrisburg still looked occupied on Monday, most of its residents were gone.
“It’s just the starting process now," said Matt Maisel, the City of Harrisburg's director of communications. "There’s still a lot of work to be done but where we were a week ago compared to where we are now, I think, is a big step in the right direction.”
The City of Harrisburg and partners with the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness addressed the situation in a news conference on Monday.
The city had originally ordered everyone to leave the encampment by last Thursday, Jan. 19, citing an increase in violent crime and a rat infestation.
Poor weather conditions extended that deadline to Sunday night.
As of Monday morning, officials said five people remained at the Mulberry Street encampment site.
“The last thing anyone wants to do is have crews come in while individuals are still there, that’s why we continue to implore them and give them urgency that this has to happen," explained Maisel.
No arrests will be made if those remaining don’t go.
But whether they leave or not, the city plans to start a 48-hour cleanup on Tuesday.
Once that’s done, a six-week rat extermination process will begin.
“It’s not about us pushing people out or relocating," said Denise Hill, director of building and housing development for the City of Harrisburg. "We are actively working with individuals to find the resources that work best for them.”
Of the dozens of people who have left the encampment under the Mulberry Street bridge, the city said Monday a few have checked into rehab, one has been reunited with their family but most of them have relocated to the homeless encampment on South Front Street near the PennDOT office building.
“These are people who want to get better, who want to improve their lives and if that means a few extra people at the PennDOT encampment, that’s okay because we’re not concerned crime is going to pop up there," said Maisel.
After the Mulberry Street site is cleaned, the city has no legal authority to stop people from returning, as the property is owned by the state.
“The city’s stance is we would prefer not to have anyone return and we’re working with CACH as we speak on more long-term issues," explained Maisel.
Officials said the focus now turns to finding long-term solutions to end homelessness in Harrisburg.
"That includes finding housing, connecting individuals to resources and just a stronger collaboration with organizations," said Hill.
The city said it had no specific long-term plans to share on Monday.
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