HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – After an undisclosed number of individuals scaled the fence under the former Mulberry Street Bridge encampment in Harrisburg, the state said it will implement barriers in and around the area to prevent people from living there again.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), which owns the property, did not disclose how many individuals moved back, or how long they were there, but said it’s a liability and safety hazard for residents to move back in. Therefore, those who did were removed by Capitol Police.
“There were hypodermic needles around,” PennDOT spokesperson Fritzi Schreffler said. “We had to hire a bio-waste company to come in and clean that up.”
The former tent city was shut down by the City of Harrisburg in January after it claimed it was rat-infested and crime-ridden.
After the barrier breach, which PennDOT said took place several weeks ago, large rocks and new fences will be put up to prevent anyone from living there.
“PennDOT doesn’t want to be heartless. We’re people, we feel for people that don’t have a place to live, but it’s state property and we have a concern with people living on state property and we have to look at it in terms of that,” Schreffler said.
Christian Churches United (CCU), which worked closely with the dozens who were displaced over the winter, had been holding out hope former tenants would be allowed back.
“It’s disappointing,” CCU Executive Director Darrel Reinford said. “It really is a pretty ideal location to have people who are unhoused and I do think it’s a safe place for them to be.”
Many former Mulberry Bridge residents are now living in another encampment near PennDOT’s Riverfront Office. The agency said they will likely have to move again in 2024 due to impending construction.