PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia announced the launch of a pilot encampment action plan for the Kensington area as part of the City’s latest efforts in combating the opioid crisis in Philadelphia. The City and partners researched best practices from around the country in addressing addiction related homelessness.

“We have never seen a crisis like this before in Philadelphia and doing nothing is not an option,” said Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis. “These encampments are adjacent to residential neighborhoods and pose a health and safety threat to those who stay there, as well as to the neighbors.”

At the launch, the encampment action pilot plan will target two encampments in Kensington. The pilot will have a multi-phase approach, initially consisting of outreach and engagement efforts to those living in the encampments located under city bridges. The outreach phase includes the development of a list of those presently living under the bridges followed by intensive, daily outreach to assess individual needs and connect individuals with services, including respite and treatment. In partnership with neighborhood non-profit providers, the City will open a new Navigation Center with an additional 40 beds and provide services for those on the list. A mobile outreach and recovery van will also be on site to provide medical care and immediate transportation to services.

“This is a unique approach that brings a suite of services to the individuals living under the bridges. We’re giving them the opportunity to get off the street and get the help they need by addressing many of the barriers that are usually a deterrent to getting services like the lack of ID’s, lack of transportation and guaranteeing immediate access to treatment-but the clock is ticking,” said Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services.

Notices in English, Spanish and Vietnamese will be posted at the two encampments and other designated areas notifying individuals that they may not continue to block the sidewalk. Individuals will have 30 days from the date the notices are posted to leave and remove their personal property. The 24th and 25th Police District will enforce the closing of the encampments. Any personal property left behind will be removed by the city and stored for retrieval for 30 days.

A draft of the plan was shared with representatives of civic organizations and community development corporations in the area for review and comment. Once launched, the pilot will be assessed by an outside evaluator and will be reviewed by neighborhood associations with the goal of improving the quality of life for everyone living in Kensington and Fairhill.

The encampment pilot plan is one of a number of City efforts to tackle the opioid crisis in Philadelphia. This week the City announced that 1,217 people died from a drug overdose in 2017, up from 907 in 2016, bringing the number of overdose deaths to four times the number of homicides in the city. The epidemic also has a growing impact on homelessness and the city’s neighborhoods. The plan seeks to tackle these challenges by preventing the growth of the crisis, providing more treatment options and easier access to treatment, and keeping neighborhoods safe, clean, and accessible.