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Deadline extends for the removal of a homeless encampment in Harrisburg

Harrisburg city officials and volunteers are working through the weekend to help around 50 folks leave the site under Mulberry Street Bridge.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The deadline to remove the Mulberry Street homeless encampment was washed away on Thursday morning.

The site was originally going to be cleared out Thursday afternoon, but weather conditions made Harrisburg officials reconsider to move the work until Sunday, Jan. 22. They will be joined with volunteers to clean up the area and assist the occupants to a new temporary location. 

The city cited many reasons for the encampment's removal.

Since November, city officials said the area has gotten 16 separate emergency calls for multiple drug overdoses, assaults, prostitution and one homicide.

However, most of those crimes were not committed by occupants under the bridge, but rather other people coming into the encampment, according to Harrisburg Bureau of Police Chief Thomas Carter.

Officials also said that dozens of large rats have prevented sanitation workers from clearing the trash.

"It is a very dangerous and hazardous situation," said Dave Wilson, public works director of Harrisburg. "[It] must be taken care of because it's only going to get worse."

Th question about how it should be taken care of is being debated.

So far, city officials pointed occupants to overnight winter shelters and worked to clean the site.

However, the local advocates said this removal process doesn't create a solution.

"A seven-day timeline is absolutely arbitrary and unnecessary, and it's putting people's lives at risk," said Justin Douglas, founder of The Belong Collective.

The city said they have identified a new temporary site in Harrisburg for the occupants. The exact location has not yet been released to the public.

On Monday, officials will gather at the Martin Luther King Jr. Government Center atrium to answer the public's questions about the process. 

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