Homeless encampment cleared in York City: Where are the people now?

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

A recent cleanup of a homeless encampment along the Codorus Creek Trail left many York County residents wondering: What happened to the individuals who'd settled there?

The encampment cleanup, organized by the Army Corps of Engineers, removed 5 tons of trash from the area. According to local officials, several individuals lived near or under the bridge along the creek at Bantz Park.

As a result, social media comments stirred speculation about whether those individuals were still living there at the time of the sweep, or if they'd been given the chance to grab their valuables.

An encampment cleanup, organized by the Army Corp of Engineers, removed five ton of trash from an area along the Codorus Creek Trail. Photo credit by Paulie Curci, the owner of Removall Residential and Commercial Cleanout Services.

A local nonprofit, focused on helping York's homeless population, put those rumors to rest.

"We were contacted a few weeks ago regarding the planned cleanup in order to help relocate people, sort through items left behind and secure any important documents," said Robin Shearer, executive director of Friends & Neighbors of Pennsylvania.

Since the fall of 2020, Friends & Neighbors of Pennsylvania has been surveying that specific location. Typically, team members will help individuals staying there by making referrals, performing wellness checks and providing survival gear.

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The organization was approached a few weeks prior to the cleanup by the Corps.

During the cleanup last week, most items removed had been collected by one individual who moved out of the area nine months ago, according to Shearer.

Additionally, there were two people staying under an adjacent bridge who also relocated before the cleanup date. These two individuals are employed, and they chose to live under the bridge, Shearer said.

Other area organizations, including the York County Coalition on Homelessness and Bell Socialization Services, also confirmed with The York Dispatch that they knew about the planned cleanup.

An encampment cleanup, organized by the Army Corp of Engineers, removed five ton of trash from an area along the Codorus Creek Trail. Photo credit by Paulie Curci, the owner of Removall Residential and Commercial Cleanout Services.

Kelly Blechertas, program coordinator for the York County Coalition on Homelessness, said one individual residing along the Codorus Creek Trail is currently in a housing program outside York County — at his request.

"This individual had a long history of housing challenges in York County and is connected to multiple [nonprofit] partners," Blechertas said. "I do not believe he is receiving specific treatment for hoarding at this point, as he has other conditions and concerns that are more primary in nature to ensure his health and stability."

Due to confidentiality concerns, the encampment residents have not been publicly identified. The various nonprofit organizations corroborated the details, however.

Friends & Neighbors did not respond to a request for additional comment. Nor was the Dispatch able to speak to the individuals who were relocated.

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When reached Tuesday about the process, the Army Corps of Engineers told The York Dispatch that the cleanup was executed for critical safety reasons — namely, flooding in the area because of the proximity of the creek.

An encampment cleanup, organized by the Army Corp of Engineers, removed five ton of trash from an area along the Codorus Creek Trail.

"We recognize that people were using this location as their homes, but we needed to move them from this area for their own safety," spokesperson Sarah Lazo said. "We coordinated with multiple social organizations and the city to inform them of our efforts and to try to get them to another safe location to stay."

Lazo said the Corps posted signs notifying the public of the clear-out in advance.

Removall Residential and Commercial Cleanout Services, the company hired to complete the cleanup, told The York Dispatch that they would not perform the job until all individuals had the chance to find shelter elsewhere.

The job was completed in two days about a week apart, said Paulie Curci, the owner of Removall. 

At the site, Curci's team found cans, bottles, tarps covering driftwood, clothing, storage bins, a sliding glass door and several air conditioners.

Additionally, Lazo said that human waste and drug paraphernalia had been found at the site. As of right now, the cleanup along the creek was the only one planned, she said.

In a Facebook post, Shearer said to consider coordinating gifts or donations with the organizations that have relationships with unsheltered individuals. 

"Before using your resources to provide things to unsheltered folks, please remember that the issues with which they are dealing are not easily solved," Shearer said. "This approach will not waste resources, will provide support these individuals really need, and will work to limit these large-scale cleanup efforts."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.