An Underground Homeless Encampment in Center City.

Underground Center City in the subway station of 15th & Locust sits a small homeless encampment consisting of 15-25 people. Tyrone Smith, who has slept in the Subway station for “about a year” describes his experience being homeless in Philadelphia as “hell.” 

“Over the last six months this spot grew,” says Smith. He cited COVID-19 as a primary factor for the site’s growth. Smith expressed discontent with homeless services & was pessimistic that he’d ever have permanent housing. 

15 & Locust Homeless Encampment – Photo by Jason N. Peters

Every individual I spoke to mentioned mental health issues, drug use, and lack of housing and employment as reasons for their homelessness. 

Jhalil, a 37 year old from Atlanta explained that he doesn’t sleep in the same spot every night because it’s “not safe,” so he moves from place to place occasionally crashing at 15th & Locust. Sometimes he stays at the Broad Street Ministry, but most nights he’s on the street.

This encampment is in the heart of downtown Philadelphia; it leads to the Lindenwold Line on the PATCO & connects to Walnut-Locust station. The encampment is a mere stone’s throw from City Hall.

The unhoused mentioned needing blankets, food, and water.

This Summer, homeless encampments popped up throughout Philadelphia to fight for housing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon one visit it appeared that none of those unhoused individuals from the JTD Camp or Camp Teddy were present at the encampment under 15th & Locust Subway Station.

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