About 100 homeless people have taken shelter at the desolate Philadelphia International Airport amid the coronavirus pandemic. The temporary encampment has caused concerns among employees and travelers however.
Some of the homeless told NBC10 they had nowhere else to go due to shelters operating at limited capacity in the Philadelphia area.
“The pandemic has risen so high that a shelter that could normally hold 50 to 100 people are only letting 10 to 20 in because their employees are susceptible to becoming sick,” Annett Michelle Brown, a homeless woman from Darby, told NBC10.
City officials warned however that the airport is not a long-term option to deal with the homeless crisis.
“We cannot have people shelter at the airport over time,” Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said. “It’s a situation. The status quo is not acceptable and it’s one that’s going to have to change.”
Sister Mary Scullion of Project HOME said there are still about 800 people living on Philadelphia’s streets every night and that for many, the airport is a safer option.
“With the epidemic, many of the places where people once sought shelter are no longer available either because they’re closed or restricted,” she said.
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“There’s been outbreaks of the coronavirus in several of the shelters, even behavioral health treatment facilities.”
In addition to needing more beds and options for shelter, Sister Mary told NBC10 the city and non-profits are in desperate need of donations to assist what she anticipates will be a growing number of homeless people.
“We anticipate that there will be a rise in homelessness stemming from the financial devastation, you know with so many families becoming unemployed,” she said.
Various nonprofits are bringing in food and clothes for the homeless and police continue to patrol for everyone’s safety.