Police move homeless people off Philadelphia streets ahead of Pope Francis’ mass

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

PHILADELPHIA – As crowds moved into the city for Pope Francis’ large public Mass on Sunday, Sept. 27, the Homeless_man_in_Philadelphiahomeless are heading out — part of a high-security lockdown forcing people off the streets.

According to a story by Alex Jacobi for the Religion News Service (RNS), the displacement of the homeless comes amid the pope’s repeated calls for greater income equality and social inclusion of the poor.

He told members of Catholic Charities during his Washington, D.C., stop Sept. 22 that there was “no justification whatsoever for lack of housing.”

Then the pope lunched with homeless people in the nation’s capital, forgoing an invitation to dine with members of Congress.

More than 1 million people converged on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Sunday’s Mass, an area where thousands live in makeshift shelters, RNS reported homeless advocates said.

In all, about 5,500 people live on the streets of Philadelphia, according to Project Home, an advocacy group for homeless people.

Police said everyone, not just the homeless, was being evacuated from certain areas and said it was for “security purposes.”

Yet some within the homeless community felt targeted.

Jason Taylor, a homeless Philadelphian, was collecting donations Sept. 24 to take a train to New Jersey or suburbanPope_kisses_young_man_in_Philadelpia Philadelphia. RNS said he was hoping to avoid the police sweep.

Others aren’t leaving quite so easily. Joe McGraw, who’s been on the streets since Pope John Paul II visited in 1979, said this year’s security is much more intense.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

“It wasn’t like this,” McGraw said. “They (now) shoo us away.”

McGraw said he understands the irony of homeless people being forced to make way for an event by a champion of the poor.

According to RNS, Sue Smith, vice president of residential and homeless programs for Project Home, police are working with homeless advocates for a smooth transition.

“It is not a matter of keeping homeless people out of the parkway,” said Smith who was helping the police with the effort. “It is just an unusual protocol.”

The homeless were also “hidden” from the Pope in his visit to Manila earlier this year. It was a move that caused considerable controversy.

Photo cutlines: Top, Jason Taylor, a homeless man in Philadelphia. (Religion News Service photo by Alex Jacobi). Pope Francis kisses and blesses Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, Pa., after arriving in Philadelphia and exiting his car when he saw the boy, Sept. 26, at Philadelphia International Airport.

Contact Jeremy Reynalds at jeremyreynalds@gmail.com.

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