HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The homeless have one week to move out of an encampment in Harrisburg, and some feel like that is not fair.

City officials describe the homeless encampment under the Mulberry Street Bridge as a “public health emergency.” The tents and makeshift shelters have to be cleared out in a week, so the Department of Public Works can go in and clean the area.

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City staff handed out notices Thursday morning in the encampment, asking the 50 to 60 residents to pack up and leave by end of day Thursday, January 19th. However, it is not just for the cleanup. City officials said the residents cannot come back.

“This is gut wrenching,” city spokesperson Matt Maisel said. “Nobody wants to do this but it has to be done for the safety of everyone involved.”

Maisel said there is a rat infestation, and it is unsafe for sanitation workers to go in and pick up trash.

“Some of our workers were nearly bit and if our workers are almost getting bit, our thoughts immediately went to the wellbeing of the people who live there. Has anyone there been bit? Are they in danger and are other residents of the city in danger?” he said.

Maisel said police have also noticed a spike in violent crime.

“Unfortunately, in order to clean up the full space, everyone currently residing there must leave,” he said.

However, there is one big question.

“All they’re saying is, ‘Where are we going to go?'” Larry McNeil with the Bethesda Mission said.

Officials said none of the winter overnight shelters in Dauphin County are full, but Darrel Reinford, executive director of Christian Churches United, which runs two of the three shelters in Harrisburg, said each shelter only has room for two to three more people at most.

“We don’t really know where these people are going to be placed, but we’re truly looking for help to help us find a place for them to go,” McNeil said.

Rebecca Grady, who used to live at this encampment, said, “They couldn’t find anything in the five or six years, what makes them think that they’re going to find something in a week? It’s not physically possible.”

Grady lived at the Mulberry Street Bridge encampment in 2018 and 2019.

“Unfortunately the loss of my daughter put me in a severe drug addiction and I ended up homeless out here,” she said.

She admits the conditions are horrible.

“You come out here at night and the rats are just running everywhere,” she said.

Grady got out — she now owns a house and two cars and has two children, but she said it is not easy and it has only gotten harder for the residents in the encampment.

“What’s going on is sad. You know, maybe they should have given them the opportunity to really clean things up before just taking their home away,” she said.

City officials said they understand, and they’re trying to help.

“We’re exploring what some of those places, a more permanent or semi-permanent location, might look like and where it would be in the city,” Maisel said.

City officials said they will have police patrolling the area in the weeks following the cleanup to stop people from coming back. The director Dauphin County Human Services also said not everyone in the encampment is homeless and more than half have other places they can go.