In preparation for Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) on Saturday, Sept. 26th and Sunday, Sept, 27th, the city's Archbishop, Charles J. Chaput, has created a committee to uphold the rights and dignity of those experiencing homelessness.

That weekend, Philadelphia will experience a massive influx of people which will be disruptive for anyone in or near Center City, housed or not. But for Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, that weekend could be especially troublesome.

The WMOF Hunger and Homelessness Committee's principal concern is to ensure that Philadelphians living on the streets are not adversely affected by security measures, by the limited transportation, or by the overwhelming crowds during the events of the pope's visit.

The committee is paying special attention to street homeless individuals who gather or sleep on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The pope is scheduled to appear on the Parkway on both days of his visit, so it will be an area of especially heightened security.

Security details, managed by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security, are changing regularly and will not be finalized until early September.

"I think most people have a little heightened anxiety because of the lack of information," says Carol Thomas, director of the Outreach Coordination Center at Project HOME, an organization on the Hunger and Homelessness Committee. "When you don't know what will be required of you and you keep hearing that one or two million people will be coming who don't live in the city, it creates anxiety, especially if you are sleeping on the streets."

"I sleep in Center City, so I am not sure where I will sleep," says Cadence, a One Step Away vendor currently experiencing homelessness.

Cadence is not alone in his apprehension. Others who have lived on the street are accustomed to being an afterthought and are skeptical that their well-being will take priority during the pope's visit.

"When important people come to town, they will move us," says Jeff, a formerly homeless One Step Away vendor.

Paul Messing, a civil rights lawyer and Hunger and Homelessness Committee member, is confident that homeless displacement will not happen here.

"In the Philippines they were busing homeless people out of the city," says Messing. "That will not happen in Philadelphia."

Messing is referring to events that occurred during the pope's visit to Manila, Philippines in January.

The Philippine government was accused of attempting to downplay homelessness in their country when, prior to the pope's visit, hundreds of people were moved from the streets of Manila to a resort away from the city's center.

The Philippine government defended the relocation as an attempt to protect those living on the streets from the chaos of the large crowds during the pope's visit.

The United States is no stranger to homeless displacement either.

During high-profile events such as the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, those living on the streets were forcibly removed.

While the pope's visit is the largest-scale event to occur in Philadelphia in decades, the city has hosted gatherings before that were large enough to affect those living on the streets.

"When the [2000] Republican Convention was coming to town, there were other efforts making sure that people who were in need of emergency services were addressed and moved away from Center City," says Julius Jackson, director of the RHD Fernwood shelter for single men, and former director of the Ridge Center, the largest men's shelter in Philadelphia before it closed in 2012.

"Historically the city has always done something," Jackson adds.

Even more recently, the Budweiser Made in America Festival, an annual weekend-long ticketed concert held on the Parkway since 2012, has required those living on the street to adapt.

"Made In America, when it first came, people were concerned because barriers were put up and access was limited, and people adjusted, but this is a very different event, because of the heightened security measures," says Thomas. "This isn't a concert, this is the pope coming, and a lot of visitors from all over the United States and outside of the United States."

"I can't remember anything of this security level," says Jackson. "The only thing I can possibly equate with this inability to move around, it's like the equivalent of the city being closed down for a blizzard and SEPTA (South Eastern Public Transit Authority) being on strike at the same time."

As the event draws nearer and security details solidify, Thomas will be leading the Outreach Coordination Center in spreading as much information as possible to people living on the streets, and making sure they know the options available to them.

"The role of outreach is to really talk to people about their choices, what would they like to do, and really connect with them. We're really going to go out there to be the voice to say, 'Hey, what is it that you would like to do?,' " says Thomas. "People may choose not to want to be within all the crowds, they may also choose to be among the crowds. We're really concerned about making sure people's rights are protected given that anyone living on the street also has the right to see the pope if they choose to."

The above piece was excerpted from an article in the August 2015 edition of One Step Away. To read the entire article, you can pick up a copy of One Step Away from a vendor in Center City or contact osa@rhd.org to subscribe to the newspaper.