Tent town from the homeless rises in Port Richmond

The city’s newest tent camp formed yesterday morning after a railroad company kicked homeless people off a nearby property. The group initially arrived in Port Richmond on Sunday when Payne transported them from Center City.

Gesturing to a modest collection of tents under the Interstate 95 overpass at Richmond and Cumberland streets, homeless advocate Dennis Payne yesterday described it as “a national movement beginning in Philly.”

The encampment, which Payne has termed “Liberty City,” was borne out of an “emergency decision” to bus about 30 homeless people away from Occupy Philly on Sunday night when eviction seemed imminent.

“We are the real movement. We are the true 99 percent,” Payne said, adding that he hoped to leverage media attention about the shantytown into gains for the homeless despite moving the group from very visible locations downtown to the out-of-spotlight property.

The group first tried to set up behind a grassy embankment across the street before realizing that it was private property, Payne said, leading to a “tug-of-war” yesterday morning between city police and federal Conrail agents over where the group could stay. 

“This is more like a compromise — a forced compromise,” Payne said.

But as of last night, its legality was still unclear. “Everything is willy-nilly right now until we figure out what the city’s going to do,” said Payne.

Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, said that the city was trying to figure out who owns the property in order to make a decision.

“What the city is trying to do is help people get the services that they need rather than making a decision on whether they need to be evicted or moved out,” he said.

Port Richmond unrest

Though some in Center City may have been happy to see the homeless group head north – “I don’t think [their presence] reflects particularly well on the city,” businessman Kevin Taylor said yesterday outside the Residences at the Ritz — not all Port Richmond residents are pleased.

“I don’t know what kind of people these are,” said resident Robert Oplinger, whose niece’s house is nearby. By 3 p.m., he had called police six times without a response. “These people are walking around at all times of the night, urinating everywhere,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re on drugs or have mental health issues.”


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