Police Move Homeless People Off Philadelphia Streets Ahead of Pope Francis’ Mass
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PHILADELPHIA (ANS. SEPT. 26, 2015) As crowds move into the city for Pope Francis’ large public Mass on Sunday Sept. 27, the homeless are heading out — part of a high-security lockdown forcing people off the streets.
According to a story by Alex Jacobi for the Religion News Service (RNS), the displacement of the homeless comes amid the pope’s repeated calls for greater income equality and social inclusion of the poor.
He told members of Catholic Charities during his Washington, D.C., stop Thursday that there was “no justification whatsoever for lack of housing.”
Then the pope lunched with homeless people in the nation’s capital, forgoing an invitation to dine with members of Congress.
More than 1 million people are expected on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Sunday’s Mass, an area where thousands live in makeshift shelters, RNS reported homeless advocates said.
In all, about 5,500 people live on the streets of Philadelphia, according to Project Home, an advocacy group for homeless people.
Police said everyone, not just the homeless, was being evacuated from certain areas and said it was for “security purposes.”
Yet some within the homeless community felt targeted.
Jason Taylor, a homeless Philadelphian, was collecting donations Thursday to take a train to New Jersey or suburban Philadelphia. RNS said he was hoping to avoid the police sweep.
Others aren’t leaving quite so easily. Joe McGraw, who’s been on the streets since Pope John Paul II visited in 1979, said this year’s security is much more intense.
“It wasn’t like this,” McGraw said. “They (now) shoo us away.”
McGraw said he understands the irony of homeless people being forced to make way for an event by a champion of the poor.
According to RNS, Sue Smith, vice president of residential and homeless programs for Project Home, police are working with homeless advocates for a smooth transition.
“It is not a matter of keeping homeless people out of the parkway,” said Smith who was helping the police with the effort. “It is just an unusual protocol.”
The homeless were also “hidden” from the Pope in his visit to Manila earlier this year. It was a move that caused considerable controversy.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at email@example.com.
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