10 Reasons Why The Heroin Tunnel Protests are Stupid


The City is moving heroin addicts out of one bridge; and this is why

(10) Yes, you read that right: the City is relocating a few of the people who are camped out in the Tulip Street tunnel.   It’s actually part of what the Kenney Administration says is a pilot project to transition heroin addicts  to temporary shelter beds.

(9) The city’s pilot program only targets one bridge: the Conrail overpass at Tulip St. and Lehigh Avenue.   Addicts who are living at the other railroad overpasses are not being removed today.   “Emerald City”, which is a Conrail overpass at Emerald St and Lehigh Avenue, is not being touched, and neither are the other tunnels.

(8) Vanessa Baker, the protest organizer who’s Facebook profile features blue hair dye and Bernie protest signs–because of course it does–claims that the City is removing people from Tulip Street with zero shelter beds being made available for them. Liz Hersh, the mayor’s director over the Office of Homeless Services, has sent numerous emails to community groups and the public explaining that beds would be available and in place before police arrive to remove the encampment at Tulip Street.

(7) Some of the protestors online are asking for terribly high political asks, such as safe injection sites, and if Kensington can’t get them, then the encampments should stay there permanently.   But an overwhelming majority of the public is against options such as that and recovery advocates have done very little to assuage the broader public that not only safe injection sites are necessary, but they will not be evil and damage quality of life.

It’s one thing to get sympathy from the newspapers for the idea; but it’s a completely different animal to get your local city councilperson on board.  Protesting in Kensington–an area with a super-low voter turnout rate–will not win over hearts and minds.

(6) This tweet:

There are very few condos anywhere near the Conrail encampments along Lehigh Avenue.  They’re  mostly single family rowhomes or rental units.   But yeah, let’s go with the Bolshy schtick.   I’m fairly certain that newcomers with very scant experience of Philadelphia and bought a unit near Lehigh Avenue will totally accept blame for addicts shooting themselves up near their homes.

(5) A quick look-see at Ms. Baker’s protest event page you’ll discover lifetime residents, some who presently deal with heroin-addled family members under their roof they’re trying to control and also former heroin addicts, telling Ms. Baker she’s lost her way.

(4) Also on Ms. Baker’s event page you’ll see distressed new and long-term residents who are complaining about the health hazards of the human miasma parked directly across the street from their front steps–and how dismissive Ms. Baker is about it.

This is happening right now, these people need help. But they do not need to be enabled at our expense anymore.

Posted by Patrick Daly on Sunday, May 20, 2018

(3) Prevention Point, Kensington’s largest opioid recovery non-profit, has been aware of the encampment removal project and has done what it can to dispel myths surrounding it, including available shelter space.  Yet folks like Vanessa continue to repeat them.   There’s no shortage of “I know what’s best; if only people saw it my way and did what I said” in the sphere of addiction recovery.

(2) Speaking of myths: that also includes facts that were once true but no longer are, yet still have become legend–long after situations have changed.   For example, many addicts will inform you that they can’t get access to any services because they lack ID.    The Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services was told about this problem for more than two years and has adjusted for these complaints. Prevention Point has been able to secure slots for patients lacking appropriate ID.

While your average Kensington-Frankford Medicaid billing factory might insist on ensuring a patient is properly enrolled in state insurance so they can submit medical claims; this isn’t the case if you walk up to Prevention Point’s office and ask for help.  Prevention Point does daily outreach at the camp sites looking to connect addicts to resources.

(1) Yes, we know the City was stupid for clearing out the Conrail tracks.   Everyone said it was stupid.   Both the neighborhood residents and advocacy/outreach centers like Prevention Point told city officials going all the way up to the mayor that it was a major mistake.

So did neighborhood organizations like the Olde Richmond Civic Association, who knew that clearing out the Conrail tracks would result in an tsunami of heroin addicts roaming around residential areas along both sides of the rail line.

But Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez insisted they had to go, and the mayor’s office was getting frantic about having the heroin encampments becoming a permanent stain on Philadelphia’s national identity.

The scenery of the Conrail heroin encampments was too much “heroin porn” for the city to tolerate.

Back when national reporters and TV crews were coming to film El Campimiento, all the newspapers were on board with the city clearing the Conrail tracks out.   They’ve probably forgotten about it; but not a single resident who lives near the Conrail tracks has.


The cover photo for this article is by Max Marin