Jerome Ballard spends his days along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where his possessions consist of a shirt, a pair of pants - and an alcohol addiction.

He doesn't particularly want to see the pope, who's expected to draw massive crowds to the Parkway this weekend. But he would like the pope to see him - in his loss and suffering, in his need and homelessness.

Chances are, neither will see the other.

Ballard and most others must leave by 10 p.m. Thursday, when the activation of a papal security zone restricts access solely to residents, business owners, and certain authorized people.

He and other homeless can reenter the area on Friday, though many said they plan to flee the crowds and commotion. The strictest security zone encircles the Parkway from City Hall to the Art Museum.

This week, the small green park across from the Central Library, where homeless people use benches for beds, has disappeared under rows of Coca-Cola coolers, pallets of folding tables, and a big white party tent. Steel security fences rise in all directions.

"They've made addressing the needs of the homeless the last item on the agenda," said Brian Jenkins, executive director of Chosen 300 Ministries. "They've invested millions in having the pope here. But they haven't invested in ensuring that the pope's message of justice and mercy is heard by those who need justice and mercy the most."

City officials say that to the contrary, the welfare of the Parkway homeless has been a key part of the planning for the visit of Pope Francis. The needy will even be able to get free food at the events.

"Our homeless residents will be well taken care of, and will have some choices and options," said Marie Nahikian, the Nutter administration's director of supportive housing. "They can stay there and enjoy the Francis festival. If they want to leave, we have shelter housing available."

Homeless people who wish to return to the Parkway can reenter the area through the security checkpoints, just like everyone else, she said.

Outreach workers will give out vouchers that let homeless people get meals from event eateries. Plans are being finalized, Nahikian said, to let ministries that serve the homeless travel through the no-driving zone to deliver meals.

Chosen 300, expecting it will be unable to breach that zone, arranged to buy $1,200 of food from a Wawa inside the perimeter.

"At least the homeless can have a hoagie," Jenkins said.

The majestic Parkway, with its museums and statuary, is incongruously associated with the homeless. The city has denied that its legal battle to stop mass feedings in parks is aimed at sprucing up the Parkway's appearance.

Civil-rights lawyer Paul Messing, who represents homeless advocates in that case, said for the papal visit, the city agreed to let a limited number of homeless people remain in the secure perimeter overnight, subject to searches of their belongings. The city also agreed to ensure that homeless who wish to reenter the zone can do so quickly, he said.

On Saturday, Philadelphia greets a pope who speaks forcefully on behalf of the homeless; who wears a cross of silver, not gold; who insists that the cry of the poor be heard. After his scheduled speech Thursday to Congress, he reportedly plans to skip lunch with his hosts and dine with homeless people.

This weekend, huge crowds are expected to shut down much of Philadelphia, with a million anticipated to jam the Parkway on Sunday for a papal Mass.

Six blocks to the east, the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission is preparing for increased demand from homeless leaving the Parkway area.

Executive director Richard McMillen said the mission food pantry is full, its beds ready. The shelter sleeps up to 250 men a night, but can push that to 300.

On Saturday the count will include the mission's operations director, Matt Wilkinson, who plans to stay to ensure that a senior staff member is on hand.

"I'm expecting higher numbers to come," Wilkinson said. Beyond that, "I'm not sure exactly what to expect."

Each year in Philadelphia, outreach groups have contact with about 5,500 people living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, or transit stations, according to Project HOME.

On the Parkway this week, homeless men - and a couple of women - accepted pastries and coffee from Helene Brongniart Rojas, a samaritan who hands out food twice a week.

"They say the pope is for us," said Gregory Kelly, 52, as he waited for a cup of coffee.

He wondered if he might see the pope. Or if the pope might notice him. And if anything would change if that happened.

Jamillah Reed, 32, said she doesn't want to leave the Parkway, where she sleeps beside a concrete wall.

Ballard, 51, said he won't stay on the Parkway. He might go see friends in North Philadelphia, though that can be difficult.

"When I have money, I drink," Ballard said.

He said he might move to a spot under a bridge on 24th Street. Nobody bothers him there.

jgammage@phillynews.com

215-854-4906

@JeffGammage