New fencing already had been installed on seven bridges that cross the tracks, according to Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis. Another 1½ miles of 6-foot fencing will be installed by Conrail on the sides of the tracks as contractors continue their cleaning efforts, expected to be completed in about 30 days.
Officials from Conrail, the Mayor's Office, the Police Department, and elected officials including Quiñones-Sánchez and State Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) all spoke at a news conference in the middle of the newly established outreach hub at Second Street and Indiana Avenue.
"Never have I seen such a coordinated effort to make things happen," said Quiñones-Sánchez.
Some in the area worry, however, that once the cleanup is finished, overdose fatalities in the area actually could increase as users shoot up in abandoned houses with no one watching out for them.
Jose Benitez, executive director of Prevention Point Philadelphia, the health-care provider and needle-exchange agency that has worked with the community for years, said last week that day visitors to the camps have been dispersing into the neighborhood, using drugs in vacant homes, parks, and anywhere they can find shade.
Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney, said that the city's outreach workers "are committed to going wherever the need is — including into abandoned houses."
Inspector Ray Convery, a police commander who oversees the area including the tracks, also said that getting users above-ground would make it easier for officers to find users in need of help. The tracks had become so covered in trash and vegetation, he said, it had become difficult and dangerous for law enforcement to patrol and monitor the area.
Monday was the contractual deadline to which Philadelphia and railway officials agreed last month to begin the process.
Just 17 of last year's 907 fatal overdoses in the city occurred at the encampment, according to the Medical Examiner's Office, a statistic that placed Benitez among the worriers.
Still, officials were resolute in saying that Monday marked the beginning of a new type of effort to comprehensively address the opioid crisis, even if it needed to be done one step at a time.