Philadelphia officials relocating homeless people from airport terminal

UPDATED: 10 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The city is evicting a group of homeless people who had been sleeping at Philadelphia International Airport during the coronavirus outbreak. They’re being relocated as the airport enforces a new rule.

Philadelphia police, city officials and medical personnel arrived outside of Terminal A East early Tuesday morning, with a couple of SEPTA buses parked in front of them.

City Managing Director Brian Abernathy says 51 people were staying there overnight, and outreach teams are going to get them the help they need after they’re screened for coronavirus.

“Everyone who leaves here today, before they’re housed, they will be tested. That test will come back, and then an appropriate housing option will be provided, whether that is in isolation or quarantine space, COVID prevention site or congregate care,” Abernathy said.

“The advocates had a point and I think we try to listen when we can. We certainly want to make sure people are placed safely,” Abernathy said.

Airport officials say the peak number of people sleeping in the terminal was about 150. They’re being moved out because of a rule now being enforced at the airport: Only travelers and people who work at the airport are allowed inside any of the terminals.

“The airlines wanted to make sure they could operate this month and the airport has been gracious, they’ve been cooperative and they’ve been understanding,” Abernathy said.

Airport officials say they tried to help as best as they could, tried to be compassionate and connect the homeless here to the services they need, but ultimately there was a, “destruction of property and deterioration of safety.”

The airport had been directing homeless people to this terminal because it’s closed since it’s typically used for international travel.

Airport officials say they’re now working to get the area safe and clean before air travel picks up again.