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Study examines effects of city program to evict homeless encampments

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Most of the people involved in the project were Philadelphians

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An independent study on the demographics of people living in recently evicted homeless encampments showed that many were Philadelphians, and many suffered from addiction, according to a statement released by the city Tuesday.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, examined the effectiveness of the city’s recent pilot program to evacuate homeless encampments on Tulip Street and Kensington Avenue—both in the Kensington neighborhood. Both evacuations aimed to move people out of homeless encampments, and to find many of the people staying there housing, disability, and behavioral health services.

The study looked at demographics of those evacuated from the two encampments, finding that 84 percent of the people were Philadelphians, with 65 percent being originally from Philadelphia.

A main objective of the city’s pilot program was to find help and services for those suffering from addiction, and to disrupt the opioid use happening in the encampments. The study addressed the effects of that as well, finding that 93 percent of the people evicted from the spaces reported active drug use, including opioids, cocaine, and alcohol. Meanwhile, 65 percent of the people suffered from mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

“The encampments were both a problem relating to America’s opioid crisis and our nation’s ongoing homelessness crisis,” said Liz Hersh, Director of Office of Homeless Services in a statement from the city Tuesday. “57 percent of encampment residents had previously spent time in a homeless shelter, so it was vital that we as a city work together to develop dynamic solutions.”

Out of those evicted from the camps, 62 percent, “interacted with outreach workers to some degree and had a direct opportunity to engage in services,” according to the statement.

The study examined only the two efforts in the spring, but the city has held two other similar eviction processes in late 2018 and in January of this year. The spring initiatives started with an outreach phase, during which the city collected names of those living in the encampments, and tried to, “assess their needs and connect them to services, including respite and treatment,” according to a statement from the city at the time.

Over 100 people received respite housing, around 50 entered treatment, and over 24 people got ID cards as a result of the program in the spring.