Philadelphia’s Skid Row: Video shows city’s homeless crisis with dozens camped around trash bin fire


The video looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie – dozens of disheveled people shivering in the middle of a winter night as they camp out around a trash bin on fire while some are strung out on drugs on a street strewn with litter.

But the footage isn’t a Hollywood production but a candid snapshot of Kensington Avenue in northeast Philadelphia – also known as the East Coast’s largest open-air drug market that has been likened to the infamous Skid Row section of Los Angeles.

The video, which was posted to YouTube by a user with the handle name ‘HoodTime,’ was filmed last Wednesday at two spots underneath the ‘El’ – which is how locals refer to the Market-Frankford train line.

As the temperature plunged to a near-freezing 33 degrees, the group of unsheltered people filmed in the video are seen huddling around a fire that was started in a trash bin.

Video uploaded to YouTube shows a large group of people seeking warmth last Wednesday on Kensington Avenue in northeast Philadelphia

The area is notorious for the ease with which drug addicts can buy illegal narcotics and prescription opioids

The area is notorious for the ease with which drug addicts can buy illegal narcotics and prescription opioids

Video shows several individuals who appear to be under the influence of drugs

Video shows several individuals who appear to be under the influence of drugs 

In 2019, the city tore down four encampments in Kensington. The two-square-mile area encompassing Kensington and City Center is notorious for its large concentration of unsheltered and addicts

Several of the individuals who were filmed in the area can be seen stumbling as they struggle to keep their balance – most likely due to the fact that they are under the influence of drugs.

The footage also shows several homeless picking through the trash in search of food while others lie on the pavement and prop up their backs against shuttered storefronts.

At least one individual is seen sifting through litter and debris while carrying a large bag in one hand.

Passersby walking along the avenue can be seen picking up items off of the pavement.

DailyMail.com has reached out to the mayor’s office as well as the city’s Office of Homeless Services for comment.

‘It is well known here [in Philadelphia] that the Kensington neighborhood has been heavily impacted by the opiate crisis, and that numerous encampments have arisen among this population in that area,’ Dr. Dennis Culhane told DailyMail.com.

It is not uncommon for drug users to obtain fentanyl-laced heroin for $5 a bag

It is not uncommon for drug users to obtain fentanyl-laced heroin for $5 a bag

The video filmed one location on Kensington Avenue that is directly underneath the 'El' - which is what locals in Philadelphia refer to as the Market-Frankford train line. The image above shows several individuals apparently under the influence of drugs at the entrance to the train station last Wednesday

The video filmed one location on Kensington Avenue that is directly underneath the ‘El’ – which is what locals in Philadelphia refer to as the Market-Frankford train line. The image above shows several individuals apparently under the influence of drugs at the entrance to the train station last Wednesday

The footage also shows several homeless picking through the trash in search of food while others lie on the pavement and prop up their backs against shuttered storefronts

The footage also shows several homeless picking through the trash in search of food while others lie on the pavement and prop up their backs against shuttered storefronts

Culhane, who is a professor and researcher of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania, co-authored a 2019 report on the city’s policies as they relate to the encampments that sprung up on Kensington Avenue.

‘The city has cleared several of those, but people still gather along the main corridor.

‘It’s a shame that people are living like this.’

The Kensington section of Philadelphia, where anyone can buy a lethal dose of fentanyl-laced heroin for $5 a bag, has been known locally as the ‘ground zero’ of America’s opioid epidemic, Philadelphia Magazine reported.

It is not uncommon for locals who pass by the area to notice men lying motionless on the sidewalk

Syringes and needles are also frequently seen out and used in plain sight.

In 2018 alone, there were 1,116 fatal drug overdoses in Philadelphia – the sixth largest city in the United States.

The image above from 2017 shows an addict walking up to the street after getting high at a heroin encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia

The image above from 2017 shows an addict walking up to the street after getting high at a heroin encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia

A needle, narcotics bag, and blood stain are seen with a reminder to tip the 'Service Docs' at a heroin encampment in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia are seen in the above 2017 file photo

A needle, narcotics bag, and blood stain are seen with a reminder to tip the ‘Service Docs’ at a heroin encampment in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia are seen in the above 2017 file photo

In 2019, that number jumped to 1,150 fatal overdoses, according to data from the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office. That’s more than three times the number of people killed by homicide in Philadelphia that year.

More than 80 per cent of those overdoses were blamed on opioids, a class of drugs that includes heroin and pharmaceutical painkillers like oxycodone.

Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine were found in half of the cases of overdose deaths while both stimulants and opioids were present in 48 per cent of overdose fatalities.

The main driver of those deaths is fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Fentanyl

Of America’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia had the highest overdose rate in 2018.

While the video shown on YouTube appears grim, there were actually more people on the streets at the height of the opioid epidemic.

Before the city removed four large encampments in 2019, it was not uncommon to see as many as 500 people on the streets in the two-square-mile area that encompasses City Center and Kensington.

According to the latest city data, there are 5,700 Philadelphians who are considered to meet the definition of ‘homeless.’

Of those, 950 are reported to be ‘unsheltered.’

The city says that homelessness in City Center and Kensington are more visible due to construction and fewer public spaces for people to live unnoticed.

Despite the horrific scenes from the area, the city says that Philadelphia has the lowest number of street homeless per capita of any of the largest cities in the US. 



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