As a further sign of the severe social crisis caused by the pandemic, Philadelphia International Airport has become the refuge of approximately one hundred people experiencing homelessness. The presence of this group of disadvantaged people has caused concerns among employees and travelers.
Some of those people told reporters that they do not have any other option to stay, due to the limited capacity of the Philadelphia area shelters.
“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 woman from Darby who is homeless, told an NBC10 reporter.
City officials do not believe that the airport could serve as a long-term option to face the undergoing homeless crisis.
Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said that this situation “is not acceptable”. “We cannot have people shelter at the airport over time,” 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.
The fear of a coronavirus shelter outbreak is a determinant factor for using the airport spaces as a refuge.
“There’s been outbreaks of the coronavirus in several of the shelters, even behavioral health treatment facilities,” explained Scullion.
In addition to needing more beds and options for shelter, Sister Mary told NBC10 the city and nonprofits are in desperate need of donations to assist what she anticipates will be a growing number of people experiencing homelessness.
“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.
Meanwhile, various nonprofits are bringing in food and clothes for the homeless, and police continue to patrol for everyone’s safety.