pope_homeless

Homeless may be temporarily swept aside from popular areas during the Papal visit.

Photo: Katie Zhao

While Penn students are looking forward to cancelled classes for the pope’s visit to Philadelphia later this month, other Philadelphia residents will need to work to find somewhere to stay for the weekend. Those who live on the streets will likely need to be relocated as a result of the city’s plans.

At any given point in time, it is estimated that there are an average of 650 people living on the streets of Philadelphia, according to the non-profit Project HOME, a Philadelphia-based organization “empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, health care and education,” according to its website.

People living on the streets will undeniably be impacted by the visit of the pope on Sept. 25. For example, the homeless that live on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will need to be relocated, as Pope Francis will be delivering a mass from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum on Sunday, Sept. 27. The parkway is designated as an area with the highest level of security for the weekend.

The security zone that the city has created for the pope’s visit may also cause some problems as well. “There are some services that are in the area that has been designated as a security zone, and it is not clear, from what I heard, whether or not those services will be operating,” Penn Social Policy and Practice professor Dennis Culhane said.

These services include emergency food programs and routine street outreach.

“If traffic isn’t able to flow, it is my opinion that the outreach programs won’t be able to operate,” Culhane said.

The homeless men and women who vacate the Parkway are not the only ones who will be impacted. High population, road closures and security measures will affect homeless people who reside throughout the city. Police officers will stress to the public the places that people will need to leave, said Project HOME Vice President for Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives Laura Weinbaum.

“Out here in University City, there should be much less of an impact,” Culhane said. The Division of Public Safety said in an email statement that it works regularly with the University City District. “The UCD and DPS work closely with Project HOME in ensuring these individuals are offered services and assistance,” according to the statement.

In order to ensure that the homeless residents of Philadelphia are minimally impacted by the papal visit, Project HOME has been working on a three-part campaign.

The first part of the campaign is called the Francis Fund, which aims to raise at least $1.5 million dollars for local organizations that aid those who are suffering from homelessness, hunger and poverty throughout the Philadelphia area.

“The money is not going to Project HOME,” Weinbaum said, “It’s going to these other organizations to increase programming that is consistent with the types of things the pope has endorsed.”

The second part of HOME’s campaign is a bipartisan movement known as the Act for Justice Campaign. The campaign asks Congress to respond to the Pope’s challenge and address the crisis of poverty in America with hopes to end homelessness throughout the country.

The third part of the campaign is an artistic component. “Undoing the Knots,” named after the Pope’s favorite work of art, “Mary, Undoer of the Knots,” is a public art project created to allow those experiencing issues, such as poverty, homelessness and addiction, to tell their stories to the community.

The project will be opening next to the Basilica on the Ben Franklin Parkway on Sept. 3, Weinbaum said.

Weinbaum and Culhane agreed that with such a large event, it is hard to predict what the impact will be, though Culhane envisions it will only be short-term, at least for University City. Despite efforts to move the homeless to more convenient areas for the weekend, Weinbaum anticipates, “In all likelihood, after the crowds leave, people will likely return back to their usual places.”

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