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Kensington: An American Neighborhood in Crisis

kensington philly

Photo by Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr

Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood has been struggling with poverty, homelessness and substance use for decades. Once a thriving industrial area, Kensington has become a hotspot for drug trafficking and consumption, attracting users from across the country and the world. The opioid epidemic has hit Kensington hard, resulting in hundreds of overdose deaths and thousands of lives affected by addiction. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the situation, disrupting the efforts of the city and the community to address the crisis.

@mfocuss Morning#kensington #philadelphia #usa #walking #homless #street ♬ We Rise Against (Full) – Jonathan Paulsen

Kensington was once a prosperous neighborhood well-known for textile and leather manufacturing. But with societal changes of the early 20th century, factories started to close, property values dropped, and both businesses and social services began to dwindle. Many people became homeless and turned to a life of drug use.

If you walk through Kensington you’ll see a plethora of open drug use and street encampments. The area is known for having cheap drugs and people actually make trips there to buy them. This might be the country’s largest open air drug market. There are also more fatal overdoses in Kensington than anywhere else in the city.

Many people who live in this neighborhood fear for their lives, with a violent crime rate about 30% higher than in the rest of Philadelphia – and about 123% higher than the national average.

In recent times, numerous state representatives and charitable entities have joined forces to devise strategies addressing the opioid issue in Kensington. These authorities have disbanded several significant settlements, adhering to a strict no-compromise stance. In addition, they’ve provided shelter alternatives, recommended treatments, and a range of support to the encampment inhabitants. Nonetheless, these initiatives have encountered various challenges and criticism.

Some community members argue that eliminating encampments does not solve the problem of homelessness or addiction, but only displaces people to other areas or makes them more vulnerable to violence. They also claim that the housing options provided by the city are inadequate, unsafe, or inaccessible for many people who need them. Some residents also oppose the idea of opening a supervised injection site in Kensington, fearing that such a facility would attract more drug users to the neighborhood and increase crime.

Another hurdle is the limited availability of support and assistance for Kensington’s residents. Many people who are eligible for public assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, or disability benefits face barriers such as long waiting times, complex paperwork, or lack of identification. Some people also don’t trust or feel comfortable with government agencies or social workers. Moreover, some people who are struggling with substance use do not want or are not ready to seek treatment due to stigma, shame or fear of withdrawal.

Recent Kensington Headlines:

Republican Candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia Vows To Use Drones To Clean Up District Plagued by Crime and Open Drug Use, Despite Civil Liberties Concerns [The New York Sun, September 7, 2023]

‘My car’s totaled’: Suspected arsonist caught on camera torching cars, trash cans in Philadelphia [6ABC, September 1, 2023]

CRISIS IN KENSINGTON: This Philadelphia area went from a safe haven to ‘hell on earth’ [Fox News, August 19, 2023]

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Written by Pete

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