NYC Police expel homeless from Harlem in preparation for Pope's arrival

Homeless men and women are being forced to move away from their settlements in Harlem, New York, in preparation for the Pope's visit.Reuters

Police have expelled homeless people from areas in Harlem before the Pope arrives in New York City.

More than a dozen people who live at the corner of 125th Street in East Harlem were told to move along on Wednesday, before the Pope visits a nearby Catholic school on Friday.

This has been met with outrage, both from those targeted and charities involved in homelessness. The approach lies is a stark contrast with the Pope's attitude towards the poor.

One man who lived in the 125th Street camp said: "He don't live here. We live here. How can they move me for someone coming here for a couple hours? Just because we are a subculture doesn't mean we don't exist.

"They ain't no Roman Catholics here. Go to Washington Heights or something where you got Roman Catholics. This is Harlem."

Anthony Rainey, 61, a homeless US Marine Corps veteran told Newsweek, "I don't think he's going to get no blessings coming here. He won't get none from me – I don't think he's doing anything intelligent, not for the real people."

Rainey has been on the street for several years and sleeps between two shopping carts.

"And all that money, they could have got me a crib, and the Pope has got too many cribs," he said.

"He coming in here, wasting up all this money, people could have had houses. We don't need to see him."

Rainey, who has fallen away from his childhood Baptist faith, adds, "I mean, maybe his believers do."

Ian G, 37, has been on the street for a year. He told Newsweek that the Pope's visit has exacerbated a citywide crackdown on homelessness, and police scrutiny has increased.

"I'm trying to figure out, who's this person? Because the Pope means nothing to me – I'm a Baptist Christian. I'm not a Roman Catholic, so that means nothing to me," said Ian G.

"So you can't tell me somebody that means nothing to me is coming and I got to go – they're forcing us out."

William Burnett, a board member of the advocacy group Picture the Homeless, is Catholic and was formerly homeless.

Many members of Picture the Homeless were excited about Francis' visit, as he struck them as more accessible than his predecessors, according to Burnett. However, this anticipation is often tempered by fear of displacement.

"Even those who are excited about the Pope have some bad feelings about the visit," he said. "I can't imagine the Pope approving of [moving people] but the city is using him as an excuse to do that."