PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Tucked away under the Parkway on Second Avenue is a small homeless village — an encampment of a half dozen tents — where a man named Willie has been making his home this summer.
“Yes it may be hot but you get some trucks up top stirs up a little breeze so it keep you cool,” he said.
But PennDOT, which maintains Second Avenue, calls the encampment a safety hazard to motorists and the homeless themselves. They have given them 60 days to vacate.
Across the Mon River, on the Southside River Trail, the City has already moved in. Public works crews have spent the week clearing encampments up and down the trail.
“You hear about the accosting people on the trail walking, biking or running, I think it’s a good thing just for safety purposes,” said Greg Wislowski.
The city is responding to the complaints of walkers, cyclists and runners like Wislowski, who say they’ve been confronted by the homeless encamped here.
“They sit on the trail, they block your way, and they give you attitude if you say ‘excuse me’ or whatever,” he explained.
But the city says it is not acting hastily or without compassion, enlisting the help of Operation Safety Net — a group that supplies the homeless medical help and aid.
After a month of negotiating with the homeless and giving them alternative housing options the city set a deadline and this week they moved into clean out these encampments.
A statement the mayor’s office read, in part,:
“Homelessness is a challenging issue facing cities worldwide. Pittsburgh does its best to treat our homeless population — many of whom are veterans — as humanely as possible, working with Operation Safety Net and other providers to find them new homes and deliver the best possible outcomes for all city residents, no matter where they live.”
On Second Avenue — PennDOT has been working with the same social service groups to provide alternatives, but Willie says he and his fellow homeless shouldn’t be forced to move.
“I feel as long as they keep it clean, they should let ’em stay cause all you’re doing is pushing them farther and farther,” he said.
And the city concedes its latest action is only a temporary fix. The encampments on the Southside are empty now but they will likely fill up again as the region and the nation are a long way away from solving the problem of homelessness.