Officials: Homeless welcome during pope visit

PHILADELPHIA -- Despite their fears, of the many preparations being made to welcome the pope to the city, running the homeless out of town isn't one of them.

In fact, it appears the city is going above and beyond to accommodate its homeless population.

Back in July, an amateur photographer captured a confrontation between a homeless man and Mayor Michael Nutter's security detail in Center City.

The man, who identified himself as 56-year-old George Creamer, was not arrested in the incident, and no one was hurt.

Creamer recently spoke out against rumors the homeless would be kicked off the Parkway during the pope's visit, a place where Creamer said homeless people like to hang out and eat.

"We're not gonna be allowed on the Parkway when the pope comes and that's where I sleep. I only sleep down here when it's gonna rain," said Creamer.

But city officials told our sister station in Philadelphia Wednesday the rumors aren't true.

"It certainly has never been this city's intent not to have the homeless able to fully participate," said Deputy Mayor Susan Kretsge.

During the next few days, the city plans to send homeless and behavior health specialists to speak with the homeless about the pope's visit and the thousands of extra visitors expected to visit the Parkway.

"People may choose to stay and be a part of it or people may say, 'Thanks for letting me know, I'm gonna move on during that period of time.' Or people may choose to come inside," said Marie Nahikian with the Office of Supportive Housing.

The city said it plans to relocate its Apple Tree Family Center to a facility on North Broad Street, and the homeless will be given vouchers to get meals in the red zone.

"We know that some meal providers who normally serve on the Parkway are gonna continue to do that and we think that's great, but if they wanna have access to meals they'll also be able to use the concessions," said Mary Horstmann with the Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment.

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