Contact: Wiley Cunningham
Philadelphia Housing Action

City of Philadelphia Cites Sanitation as Primary Reason for Evicting Homeless Encampment, Simultaneously Undermines Encampment Sanitation
Pressures Porta-Potty Rental Company to Cancel Contract and Releases Contagious Norovirus Patient from Hospital to Camp for Care

July 15th, Philadelphia, PA

As the City of Philadelphia’s Friday eviction timeline loomed this week, city officials were apparently working behind the scenes to precipitate a sanitation crisis within the James Talib Dean (JTD) protest encampment.

On Tuesday, July 13th, camp organizers were first notified by National Rental Company that their contract for portable latrines was being rescinded due to pressure from the City of Philadelphia, emails show.

“We were notified that the latrines would be removed before Friday and that none of the additional cleanings stipulated in the contract would be made during the week.” Said organizer Alex Stuart, from Workers Revolutionary Collective, who’s organization holds the contract. “We tried to make arrangements for the additional cleaning, but I was informed this morning by our sales rep that the company was unable to perform the maintenance due to interference from the Philadelphia Police Department.” According to Stuart, the rental company was told they would have to pay fines and faced possible confiscation for deployment without proper permits from the city.

CDC guidelines specifically recommend providing increased access to latrines for those experiencing homelessness during COVID-19

“If toilets or handwashing facilities are not available nearby, assist with providing access to portable latrines with handwashing facilities for encampments of more than 10 people. These facilities should be equipped with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).”

Compounding the issues around sanitation is the case of a JTD camp resident Timothy Ramsey who was admitted to Jefferson hospital on the evening of Saturday July 11th after displaying symptoms of fever and diarrhea and subsequently diagnosed with norovirus.

Norovirus, a highly contagious and potentially fatal pathogen with typical symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps, and watery non-bloody diarrhea is usually spread through contact with fecal matter and vomitus. Treatment is primarily replacement of fluids and isolation to prevent spread

After 72 hours at Jefferson the patient was released by the hospital despite the patient still displaying symptoms and staff advocating for him to remain as inpatient due to the highly contagious nature of the virus and his lack of housing options. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health was notified that the patient was homeless and would be returning to a large encampment and they approved the release.

JTD Camp community medics arranged temporary housing for the resident to prevent contagion, where he remains in recovery.

“I’m really grateful for you all [camp medics], I would have had nowhere else to go.” said Ramsey, “After the hospital discharged me still sick you placed me in temporary housing. Since being here you have helped me a whole lot. Once I leave I need somewhere else to go that’s not right back on the street again.”


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