HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Nonprofit groups in Harrisburg are helping the homeless under the Mulberry Street Bridge get ready to move. The deadline for them to leave the encampment has been extended to Sunday, a big change for the 50 to 60 people who live there.
Christian Churches United (CCU) is working with local businesses to give people under the bridge free laundry and shower services. They said they want to make sure people can move to their next destination with dignity.
Niki Kozlowski and Corey Nevadomsky have been homeless for two years.
“We moved down to Mulberry Street,” Kozlowski said. “We were there for six months.”
The couple used to live in the encampment under Harrisburg’s Mulberry Street Bridge.
“Being down there and female, it sometimes would get really sketchy,” Kozlowski said.
They are now staying in a house that is being remodeled, but that has its own challenges.
“Actually someone broke into the house yesterday, last night, and stole a generator from us and two propane heaters,” Nevadomsky said.
On Thursday, the couple joined others from the encampment at Fox’s Wash and Go.
“We want people to have clean clothes at least, so if they’re going on interviews, they have some type of dignity when they go,” owner Angel Fox said.
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The business, in partnership with Christian Churches United, provides free laundry services and transportation back and forth.
“Trying to carry as many clothes as we had, as much as we had, it’s kind of hard, so with the transportation, it’s perfect,” Nevadomsky said.
Fox and CCU have been doing this for about a year, but when the city announced plans to clear the encampment, they wanted to do more.
“We added an extra wash to help with this move,” Fox said.
Kozlowski and Nevadomsky said these are the resources they count on while they try to get back on their feet.
“We didn’t plan on being homeless and not have jobs, but we’re working on it,” Kozlowski said. She added she and Nevadomsky are working to get into a Bed and Breakfast.
The two hope others learn from their story that the homeless are people too.
“It kind of gets a stereotype that we’re all nasty, dirty people. Not everybody’s on drugs, some people just fall into hardships,” Kozlowski said.
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abc27 also reached out to the city for more information on whether people would be allowed to return to the bridge after the cleanup process, which could take several weeks. City spokesperson Matt Maisel said the decision is not up to the city.
Maisel said the bridge and surrounding area are state property, so the state has final say on whether people can live there.
Maisel said police will patrol the area while it’s being cleaned because they do not want people coming back while there are rat traps and other heavy equipment around. However, once Public Works determines the area is safe, the city cannot stop people from returning.
Maisel also said the city is concerned that issues like rats and crime will arise again if the tent city is re-established, and he said the city is committed to working with partners in the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness to help people find long-term housing.