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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chief Scalzo: Why He Cleaned Out Easton Homeless Encampment



"Sex Tent" for Lehigh Dr. Homeless Camp
At last night's meeting of Easton City Council, Easton Police Chief Carl Scalzo explained why, earlier that day, Easton's Police and Public works cleaned out a homeless encampment that starts at 4th and Washington, behind the WaWa, and extends along Lehigh Drive for over a mile to West Easton. He knows this is a "sensitive issue," but said he felt compelled to act by concerns about public safety, sanitation and the environment. He added that the encampment is located on private property, and the owner is also concerned about liability for any injuries at the site. The property has been posted with "No Trespassing" signs, and violators will be prosecuted.

"I've been tasked with the responsibility of keeping people safe," he explained. "I just can't keep people safe when they are living on the side of a mountain for a mile down the road."

The encampment along Lehigh Drive is one of several homeless encampments in Easton, according to Scalzo. He stated the others are more mobile, better maintained and are monitored

Unlike the others, the Lehigh Drive encampment has been occupied for the past two years, and is difficult to monitor. As of about five months ago, there were between 30-50 people living there. "I guess the word was being spread that this is an area where you can stay," he told Council. Residents included people from Allentown, Warren County and as far away as Missouri.

As the population increased, so did reports of criminal activity in an area "impossible to patrol." Public drunkenness and open fires could be expected, but there were also fights, including an aggravated assault. Welfare frauds lived there , as well as people wanted for bench warrants.

Scalzo explained that the homeless along Lehigh Drive even had their own quasi government  One person was collecting food stamps, money and unspecified favors in exchange for the right to stay there. At the same time, some of these squatters threatened social workers who visited them.

Favors may have been performed in what Scalzo called a "sex tent" along Lehigh Drive.

In addition to the criminal activity, Scalzo was concerned about sanitation. People living there were defecating into plastic bags, which would then be tossed along Lehigh Drive They were also urinating in bottles that were similarly tossed. Empty propane tanks, which still contain small amounts of gas, presented an environmental concern, especially given the close proximity to the Lehigh River.

About two months ago, Sclazo sat down with representatives of Safe Harbor, who agreed to help as many people as they could. About 15 people were placed. But the remaining people were unwilling to seek help.

Scalzo decided that it was time to close the encampment, and warned the remaining population they were coming. When police and public works arrived, Scalzo stated he did not see one homeless person.

"This was not done callously and with no foresight," insisted the Chief.

When Chief Scalzo was finished making his presentation, one of the formerly homeless residents spoke out as well. Henry Rodruiguez, Jr. is disabled, was walking with a cane, and said he had "given up mentally." When he went to Safe Harbor for help initially, all they could do was give him a sleeping bag and a tent. He now lives on the South Side, and will receive an operation in April for his back.

Sal Panto blamed the County for this problem, and accused county representatives of "just turning their backs on them."  Two thirds of the County's budget provides human services, and County funding does financially assist homeless shelters.

34 comments:

Pal Santo said...

I think this is a very good, incredible, progressive decision. And let me just tell you - let me just tell you that Easton is just a beautiful city. Beautiful. This city is not only the best city in the Lehigh Valley, but almost certainly the best city in this spiral arm of the galaxy. I'd really like to tip my hat to the cultural revitalization of our city, which is just fantastic. Fantastic. Did you know we have a vape lounge? AND a bacon festival? AND a farmer's market? Just a fantastic city.
Sometimes the poors need to be moved aside for their own good; we cannot have the fantastic people of this fantastic city seeing anything unsightly when using our fantastic parking garages or shopping at our fantastic McDonalds.

One can only suppose that the elected officials of that city, none of whom I know personally or even by name, are a handsome and brilliant lot. Whomever the noble mayor of this phenomenal city is, I hope to see him in that office for life - and then only replaced by a laptop housing pre-recorded video clips of him giving resolutions to every conceivable problem.

Anonymous said...

Typical politician Sal, pitch the problem to the county. Hey Sal, stop making excuses and just do your job.

Salp Anto said...

@Pal
Your comment was a fantastic observation of our beautiful city. BEAUTIFUL. As a lifelong resident of the West Ward it is obvious that we are blessed to have such a phenomenal Mayor. PHENOMENAL.

tom18017 said...

Our mayor CARES about the homeless enough to call out the county for their obvious lack of care for the homeless. Too bad Corbett didn't win re-election as the state would be another great deflection.

I love how the hobos had a sex tent and charged rent to the other hobos. You can't make this stuff up. Not sure why they are pooping in bags though. What's wrong with pooping in the bushes?

cat5dog1 said...

tom18017, What do you want the county to do? The article states that only 15 people wanted help. People are allowed to make their own decisions unless they are in immediate danger to their selves or others. Apparently these people chose this life and are okay with it or they would want to accept help.

Angie Spear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Good job Panto blaming the County. Good job cleaning this mess up

Anonymous said...

Colonial Hospitality awaits them in Nazareth. Who needs Sal and his city anyway.We offer plenty of HUD housing and great woods with running spring water at our park,plus a new pool. No police dept and an understanding and compassionate town council.

alfonso todd said...

This encampment sound like Barter Town on Mad Max, Beyond The Thunderdome... "Two men enter, one man leave!"

But seriously, homelessness is a nationwide problem and I hope everyone eventually receives the assistance they need to overcome their issues.

Alfonso Todd

Anonymous said...

And they go where? does someone think that they chose to be homeless? That after a tour thru Vietnam life is just a wonderful thing? These people need help not a dictator scumbag mayor pushing them out. Does he think this makes him a hero or a zero of the people? BIG ZERO... so Ok.. you pushed them to where? Helped them with what services? and they have where to go to lay their head down?

Anonymous said...

The TV report on this last night indicated that Safe Harbor requires drug tests. If they were clean, they probably wouldn't be homeless. Stupid. You're never going to solve issues of addiction if you treat people this way.

Irrate citizen uptown said...

I drive Washington st. Everyday..usually two or more times per day, go to that mc Donalds several times a week (not proud), and lived 37 years in the immediate area. Including these past 2. I had NO IDEA about this group of people living/surviving there until now. If that doesn't prove they weren't a problem I don't know what would. Northampton street specifically the circle has a common need of police for fights, and west ward couldn't be covered in more random garbage. Seems the whole town needs to be removed and all people pushed elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Let us readers know where the independents move to as I enjoyed my morning cup of Joe & BJ from same.

Unknown said...

I use to live in tent city..They city was suppose to bring a dumpster and never brought it. So they treat homeless people like dogs. That is the worst city ive ever been to.if the city would of kept their word none of this would be happing if they care.. Their is only one shelter in the town how are all the homeless people suppose to live there

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the place was more peaceful, safer and more organized the west side. Hey Mayor, how about worrying less about the homeless bums and more about the violent predator drug dealers that have littered the west side for years and is only getting worse. I guess that is the county's fault or maybe Allentown's fault. Who knows, certainly not yours. Go light your candle.

Bernie O'Hare said...

M sympathies would lie with the homeless, but I believe Chief Scalzo aced appropriately. There was a public safety concern the area is difficult to patrol, and the pics of plastic baggies filled with human shit being tossed over the bank made me want to puke. Before closing the place down, Scalzo waited months so that as many as possible could be placed. Those who were not placed did not want to be placed. Ample warning was provided that the area would be closed, and Scalzo saw no one when he arrived. I don't believe in the criminalization of the homeless, but believe Scalzo did all he could possibly do to prevent that possibility.

Amanda Wellington said...

That was my tent ass holes and what a married couple cant have sex in their own tent fuck outta my face scumbags

Anonymous said...

This extended to West Easton? Just when Jimmy thought he had a place to hang his hat after the metal cot he's been sleeping on for 2+ years, it's swept out from under him. Bummer.

Unknown said...

Sal u really gotta helpnus , this is getting out of hand cops have been texting people all day out of the in Camps. Please help us

Henry Rodriguez said...

* chasing

Anonymous said...

Wake up people. What part about PRIVATE PROPERTY do you not understand. It's always somebody else's fault. Stop making excuses.

Anonymous said...

Amanda Wellington.. Hope you and your "husband" use protection. Don't burden those of us who pay taxes with another welfare baby.

Peter J.Cochran said...

The Chief of Police in Easton is using common sense. I dealt with Henry Rodriguez 20 years ago as a STATE CONSTABLE you can't fix stupid. His cane has nothing to do with it. He will die off a hapless indigent even if we gave him a MILLION dollars ,because he is a douche bag.

Anonymous said...

@5:30PM Because someone is indigent and happy, he is a "douche bag"?

That's a messed up attitude.

Anonymous said...

Panto is a freaking asshole! Blaming the county is complete BS! He has no idea what is done at the county level. We never see him at the table of more than 30 people who actually participate in finding solutions to the growing problem. Panto, you are an ignorant jerk.

Anonymous said...

Not every homeless person is drug addicted or an alcoholic. Circumstances happen. Imagine losing every thing and having no family. Or finding yourself dead broke and cannot work. Where would you get the money to get a $900/mo apartment?

Anonymous said...

These homeless used to be known as vagrants. Im glad they got removed. Try hitting McDonald early in the morning and they are in there charging their cell phones and making a mess of the restrooms. They also stand outside by the side door smoking. In front of WaWa was just as bad. All these bums standing in front of the store asking for money while they have a cigarette in their mouth.On Sunday it is like going thru a receiving line as the bums are on one side and the jevoah Witnesses on the other side handing out their BS.

Bernie O'Hare said...

WaWa gave them coupons for free coffee. As corporations go, they handled themselves well and the store was praised last night.

Anonymous said...

These vagrants are bums. They are filthy and disgusting. Stop making them out to be victims. They should stop having babies on my dime. How much VD has all their sex spread?

Is this what you want in Easton?

Anonymous said...

So is it true you cannot stay at Safe Harbor without a clean drug test?

Anon said...

They barely cleaned shit I was there today and they "city" barely cleaned a thing

Anonymous said...

Hapless not Happy!!;

Anonymous said...

Amen!!!!

Anonymous said...

Agree!!!!