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Community effort aims to help the homeless in Harrisburg

The city's Public Works Department has teamed up with several community groups to clean up the homeless encampment under the Mulberry Street Bridge.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A community effort is underway in Harrisburg to foster relationships with those experiencing homelessness, while also ensuring those individuals have a clean place to live.

Every Thursday, the city’s Public Works Department, along with the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness and other community groups, stop by the homeless encampment underneath the Mulberry Street Bridge to clean up trash.

“Since the pandemic and especially after the eviction moratorium ended the number of persons on the streets and in shelters has grown,” said George Payne, director of projects for the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness.

Now with skyrocketing rents, it’s become even tougher to find affordable housing.

Organizers say that’s not just in Harrisburg, but a trend throughout the nation.

Many of these individuals are also dealing with food insecurity.

 “The status of the homeless people out here is so overwhelming, they no longer have nowhere to get as much food as they need,” said Lawrence McNeil, house supervisor for the Bethesda Mission.

That’s why the Bethesda Mission is on hand every week to hand out boxes of nonperishable food.

“They’re very healthy boxes and what we do is go to the Salvation Army and they provide us with the boxes already filled from their volunteers and we bring them out here,” said McNeil.

Those involved say beyond keeping the city clean, it’s about developing long-term relationships with individuals in need of affordable housing.

“[We do it] with the hopes that over time, people will be able to reach out and receive housing services where that’s available,” said Payne. “It has developed so much trust because I think people who are experiencing homelessness realize we’re here to offer assistance and find out there is a lot of assistance available.”

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