The homeless: Life after Occupy

Posted: December 13, 2011

WHAT HAPPENED to the homeless people who were evicted from under Interstate 95 in Port Richmond last week?

The Daily News touched base with four of them yesterday. Three were staying in shelters last night, and a fourth has been living temporarily in Kensington.

After going to Washington last Tuesday with Occupy Philly and Fight for Philly folks to rally for the extension of unemployment insurance, these four and others returned to Philadelphia on Friday.

Paul Klemmer, 53, an educated man who said he had dropped out of college, said he's still working toward creating a commune with like-minded people. He says they could make their own living by farming and selling crafts.

Klemmer was one of about 30 homeless people who camped out at City Hall with Occupy Philly but then left for Port Richmond - first to an old Conrail yard, where a self-described homeless advocate, Dennis Payne, believed that they could live in the woods - after the city gave notice of eviction at Dilworth Plaza.

The group dwindled to about 20 when they moved beneath the I-95 overpass. They were then ordered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to leave that paved lot by Dec. 5.

The homeless people had jelled into a close-knit, small community under the highway. But since that latest eviction notice, most have now gone their own way.

Six reportedly have trekked farther into another wooded area of the city, where they want to be left alone. They have been dubbed Camp Nowhere.

"They're doing OK," said Tricia Shore, a Quaker who has been helping the homeless who were in Port Richmond. "They're the more-hardy types. They have a distribution network set up - they're getting supplies. [But] it's not a good situation."

Since Washington, Klemmer has been staying at Payne's Kensington house, and has been working on making lanterns to sell for Christmas. He hopes to get a work space so that more people could work and make crafts.

Over the past two weeks, Shore has been furiously emailing city officials trying to get them to find a permanent solution for this group of homeless - such as a vacant house or a lot on which they could build homes.

Deputy Managing Director Bridget Collins-Greenwald said yesterday that anyone can go onto the Redevelopment Authority's website, find a vacant property and contact the city agency that owns it. Anyone who wants to buy a property needs some money, "but also some financial capacity to keep it up to code and pay taxes," and turn on the electricity and water, she said.

The city can't make exceptions for any person or group, she said.

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