In Kensington, a neighborhood notorious for its open-air drug market, families struggle to shield their children from the daily traumas while businesses grapple to maintain order. A former addict who escaped the community paints a bleak picture.
Businesses are in constant jeopardy. "The businesses don't last long. When they are put in the community, the community tends to tear them down," shared Frank Rodriguez. "It's not a place for anything to thrive."
Internationally recognized for its public drug misuse, Kensington stands out as a hotspot for crime and poverty in Philadelphia. Recent data by The Philadelphia Inquirer reveals that within a month ending Aug. 14, Kensington bore some of the city's most alarming rates of violent and drug-related crimes.
Speaking from personal experience, Rodriguez, now a business owner, conveyed the challenges faced by businesses in such an environment. "I couldn't imagine the customers to my business having to wade through such chaos. Who'd want to shop here?"
The scene on Kensington Avenue is dismal. Residents encounter individuals in various stages of drug use, from those preparing for a fix to those unconscious from potent mixes like fentanyl. The residue of this activity, including overdose kits and syringes, litters the avenue.
Cantina La Martina, an acclaimed Mexican restaurant in Kensington, bears testament to these challenges. Due to rising concerns over public drug consumption, their nightly customer count has plummeted by 60%. Some vendors have even refused to deliver supplies, as per CBS News Philadelphia.
Daily chores for businesses in Kensington include cleaning up disturbing residues. "There's needles, vomit, feces, bodies," Rodriguez detailed.
To safeguard their storefronts, some businesses have resorted to unconventional measures. Rodriguez noted, "They've established unique deterrents, even using booby traps and sprinkler systems."
Yet, Kensington isn't solely a commercial district. Many families reside here, and they too grapple with the grim realities. A resident, Rob, chooses to bring food home, hoping to spare his children from the unsettling sights on the streets.
Kensington's challenges are systemic. A 2019 Drexel University study revealed its violent crime rate to be 30% higher than the city's average from 2012-2016. Meanwhile, the area's income levels were half the city's average. Kensington also exceeded city figures in issues like graffiti, illegal dumping, and hazardous buildings.
What does Kensington avenue in Philadelphia look like on a summer afternoon?! pic.twitter.com/2S8VTNYgeB
— Ronald Kelly (@RonK3l) August 12, 2023
Rodriguez painted a grim picture of the predatory environment: "There are people waiting for someone to become vulnerable just to rob them."
Though Rodriguez has left Kensington, his journey to sobriety brings him back regularly. He offers essentials and counsel to those still entrapped in addiction. Nonetheless, he lamented, the neighborhood's decline seems unrelenting.
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