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City leadership teams with Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness, vows to help homeless population relocate

CONTACT: Matt Maisel
Director of Communications, City of Harrisburg
(717) 255-7295
[email protected]

January 13, 2023

HARRISBURG – The City of Harrisburg has asked anyone currently staying underneath the Mulberry Street Bridge to vacate the area no later than Thursday, January 19.

During the last week of December, members of the Harrisburg Public Works sanitation team were performing twice-weekly clean-ups in the area when they encountered dozens of large rats in and out of trash receptacles.

In addition, crime has spiked in the area in recent months. Since November 1, Harrisburg Bureau of Police officers have visited the site 16 times for crime-related calls, including multiple drug overdose deaths. There have also been numerous instances of violent crime, including six assaults since November.

The space is home to a homeless encampment.

“Unfortunately, in order to clean up the full space, everyone currently residing there must leave,” said Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams. “This is gut-wrenching. Nobody wants to do this, but it needs to be done for the safety of everyone involved.”

The order was made by Mayor Williams, after discussions with Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Carter, Fire Chief Bryan Enterline, and Public Works Director Dave West. Department of Building and Housing Development Dennise Hill, Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority Director Bryan Davis, and Dauphin County Human Services Director Randie Yeager were also involved in the decision-making process.

City of Harrisburg officials are discussing potential spaces within the city for those who live in the encampment to relocate. In the meantime, city and Dauphin County officials are asking individuals to take advantage of a number of different overnight shelters:

  • Downtown Daily Bread, 234 South Street: 7pm-7am
    Check-in begins at 7:00 pm and closes by 8:00 pm, or when full capacity is reached. Lights out at 10:00 pm. No meals or showers are available at night. Check-out time is 7:00 am.
    • Breakfast is served 7:00 am to 8:00 am weekday mornings in the DDB Soup Kitchen
    • To reach shelter between 7:00 pm–10:00 pm, call 717-238-4717 ext. 2
  • Christian Churches United Men’s Shelter, 1805 North 12th Street: 7:30pm – 7am
    Check in begins at 7:30pm and closes at 9:30 pm. Lights out at 10:00 pm, no meals or showers.
    Check-out time is 7am.
  • Grace United Methodist (Shelter for Women/Non-Binary), 216 State Street: 7:30pm-7am
    Check-in begins at 7:30pm and closes at 9:30pm. Lights out at 10pm. No meals or showers. Check-out time is 7am.
  • Families with children needing shelter should call HELP Ministries at 717-238-2851 between 8:30am-4:30pm Monday-Friday. When HELP office is closed, call Crisis Intervention at 717-232-7511 or 1-888-596-4447.

The cleaning process is expected to take 24 to 48 hours, according to Public Works Director Dave West. It will not be open for encampments once it is cleaned.

“It is a very dangerous and hazardous situation and it must be taken care of, because it is only going to get worse,” Director West said.

On Friday, Mayor Williams met with approximately community leaders within the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness. The meeting was held to go into greater detail of why the decision was made to vacate the spot, and to figure out ways the City of Harrisburg can work with homeless advocacy groups to ensure safety for anyone who desires it.

Those who took part in the meeting include:

  • Yolanda Hunter – Gaudenzia
  • Randie Yeager – Dauphin County Human Services
  • Corrie Lingenfelter – Downtown Daily Bread
  • Aisha Mobley – Christian Churches United
  • Darrel Reinford – Christian Churches United
  • Tina Nixon – UPMC VP of Mission Effectiveness
  • Nicole Condon – Bethany Christian Services
  • Mya Crawford – Shalom House
  • Commissioner Thomas Carter – Harrisburg Bureau of Police
  • Chief Brian Enterline – Harrisburg Bureau of Fire
  • Dave West – Director, Public Works
  • Kevin Jackson – Public Works
  • Matt Maisel – Director of Communications

The assembled group discussed why the situation under the Mulberry Street Bridge reach the point where the city was forced to vacate the area, and how to prevent those issues from popping up at other places.

Among the complaints which arose were citizens leaving furniture or food, instead of coordinating with local shelters or food pantries which already provide meals. Corrie Lingenfelter, who operates Downtown Daily Bread, was among those stressing the need to lead the community know if they want to help, to work with the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness instead of doing something by themselves.

The group, under the direction of Mayor Williams, plans to meet next week to further discuss next steps.

“This was never a plant to just displace or not help,” said Lingenfelter. “We care about our clients, our homeless family, like I would any of my friends. This is not a negative. Our message is that our biggest concern is the safety of the homeless population.”

More information about being a volunteer with the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness can be found here: https://cachpa.org/index.php/take-action/be-a-volunteer/ or by calling 717-255-6587.