What do you suppose the City of Philadelphia's Operation Quality of Life might consist of? A tree-planting program? No, that's Greenworks. A crackdown on drug hot spots and nuisance bars? No, that's Operation Pressure Point, 2.0, recently announced by the mayor. (Operation Pressure Point, apparently, had quietly ended already.)
No, Operation Quality of Life is a program "to dismantle homeless encampments," according to Anthony "Rocko" Holloway, of the Office of Supportive Housing, who oversees the program and whose name appeared on an enthusiastically capitalized letter delivered to a small group of homeless folks who'd been living beneath the Betsy Ross Ridge for the past four months — ever since some of them were evicted from beneath an I-95 overpass, where they'd been living since they were evicted along with everyone else from Occupy Philly.
Unlike Operation Pressure Point and Greenworks, the city's plan to systematically dismantle homeless encampments has not received much press. After getting a copy, Hall Monitor was able to find only one prior reference to the program, in a 2007 Inquirer article about a couple being evicted from a tented shelter near the Vine Street Expressway. The article didn't explain what the program was. (The dailies, which ran lengthy stories on the I-95 camp last fall, declined to cover this eviction at all; the Fishtown Star, bless its pulpy heart, did yeoman's work.)
But so far, no one seems to have inquired much about Operation Quality of Life, which Holloway says dismantles similar camps every couple of months or so. He says there's never been an arrest.
City officials were quick, as usual, to point out to Hall Monitor that outreach teams from Project H.O.M.E. were on hand to offer what homeless outreach teams have to offer: space in the city's shelter system. As was the case with the Port Richmond encampment, several of the people living beneath the Betsy Ross Bridge declined. They had, it seems, been more comfortable living in a cleared-out patch of dead Japanese knotwood.
Among those displaced was Harvey Lockeridge, a Navy veteran known for leading "Homeless Reality Tours" during Occupy. When I saw him the day after the announced eviction, he was eating a soon-to-be-banned free meal near City Hall. Members of Occupy had showed up to keep vigil the night before, and, when Operation QoL didn't show, the encampment had dismantled itself. Lockeridge would sleep that night at a friend's place. Then he'd figure out his next move. And so, apparently, will others — every couple of months.
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