HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The City of Harrisburg is gearing up for a major clean-up and extermination effort under the Mulberry Street Bridge. The city has called it a public safety emergency because of crime and a rat infestation, and they gave residents a week to leave.
The city extended that deadline to Sunday night due to weather concerns, but as of Monday morning, five people still remain under the bridge. City officials are working with nonprofit partners to convince those people to move and help relocate them before the clean-up effort starts.
“The last thing that anyone wants to do is have crews come in while individuals are still there,” Director of Communications Matt Maisel said. “The city and CACH (Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness) will continue to work with these individuals to get through what is obviously an immensely difficult time.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, a two-day trash pickup will begin at the homeless encampment under the Mulberry Street Bridge. After the trash pickup, an exterminator will come to treat the rat problem, which is expected to take about six weeks.
According to the Mayor’s Office, police will be patrolling the area to prevent people from returning, but Public Works Director Dave West said that the extermination will take place even if people remain under the bridge.
Maisel said most of the residents have relocated to another encampment that is located at PennDOT on Front Street. The city offered another temporary location site, but as of Monday morning, everyone who moved there has left. Some residents were also able to access other resources.
“Most importantly, a number have been able to check into different rehab facilities,” Maisel said, adding one resident was also reunited with their family.
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After the clean-up and extermination, the city said they would prefer not to have anyone return, and they are working with nonprofits to help provide resources and long-term solutions to the homeless.
“It’s not about us pushing people out or relocating, we are actively working with individuals to find the resource that works best for them. And that’s a number of things: rehab, temporary shelters, relocating out of state back to their families,” said Denise Hill, director of building and housing development.
The Mayor’s Office will be working with the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness moving forward to address the larger issue across the city, beyond the Mulberry Street Bridge.
“CACH has and has been working on a blueprint to end homelessness,” Hill said. “We absolutely will be moving forward with that plan, and that includes finding housing, connecting individuals to resources and just a more open and a stronger collaborative with organizations like you see here and others to continue to provide resources to those who choose to accept them.”
The city has said it will not be arresting anyone who resists leaving the Mulberry Street Bridge encampment, but they are working with nonprofit partners to get everyone out before extermination efforts start.
While the city does not want the encampment to return after cleanup, officials said the cannot legally prevent anyone from coming back because the area is state property, and the state has final say on whether people can live there.