Pope Francis created quite the stir at lunch while in Washington, D.C. Instead of eating a lunch with high profile politicians, Pope Francis turned down the opportunity. Instead, Pope Francis decided to eat lunch with the homeless. So, the removal of the homeless as part of the “cleanup” in the City of Philadelphia is turning some heads.
Reuters reported that the homeless have been moved outside of many of the areas that will become restricted from Friday through Sunday evening:
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a stretch of cultural centers and grassy parks where homeless sleep and tote their belongings in plastic bags, is undergoing papal security checks and cleanup that will displace some of the downtrodden that Francis champions.
“With this papal visit, I’ve got nowhere to stay,” said Joe Flatley, 52, a former corporate sales manager with an alcohol addiction who sometimes sleeps in the parkway.
Reuters also reported that the City of Philadelphia came up with a “Homeless Survival Guide” for the weekend, and have tried to help homeless during the restrictions:
City officials say they have worked with advocates to form a homeless-sensitive plan for the visit by Francis within the restrictions of federal security mandates.
“We’ve made every effort to be respectful of these individuals,” said Eva Gladstein, who heads Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.
Additional shelter beds will be opened for the visit and indoor soup kitchens will be operating overtime. Outreach workers will monitor security sweeps of encampments to ensure fair treatment.
On Friday afternoon, Vine Street was rather empty. The street sits just north of the gated area. The road was mostly closed. But walking down Vine Street from the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to the East, visitors saw a number Philadelphia’s homeless were sitting on the curbs of parking garages over the sidewalk. Some had bags with their belongings, clearly displaced.
It is not entirely clear what Pope Francis will be doing between the 10:30 a.m. mass and the 4:45 p.m. address in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Maybe he will plan to visit with the City’s homeless as he did in Washington, D.C.
If Pope Francis does so, he will have to go beyond the security perimeter. But Pope Francis is known for ignoring them. Stay tuned.