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Homeless Camps Cleared Out For Riverfest

WILKES-BARRE — An event to celebrate the Susquehanna River in the Wyoming Valley is getting underway Friday evening in Wilkes-Barre.

It is a family fun event and that’s why there was concern about clearing out the homeless camps along the banks of the river before the festival began.

Volunteers told Newswatch 16 homeless camps along the river should not be a problem; most have been cleared out.

The festivities got underway at River Common in Wilkes-Barre with fishing, kids’ activities, and the Awaken the Dragon ceremony.

The tents are up at Nesbitt Park and steps have been sprayed down at River Common for Riverfest 2014 in Wilkes-Barre.

“I love the park. I come here almost every day to run. I’m enjoying it.”

Cheryl Bertucci just moved from Lake Wallenpaupack to Wilkes-Barre. She enjoys the recreational areas along the Susquehanna River but Bertucci has noticed that the place is also popular with the homeless.

“They’re here. If we ignore it, it doesn’t help it. Maybe seeing it, maybe somebody could help by seeing what’s going on.”

The focus this weekend is on the Susquehanna, but there are some safety concerns about homeless camps that have set up along the river banks.

“Everyone in here, that comes in here, that I find all this stuff, they have a criminal background.”

Richard Hosey, a volunteer with Susquehanna River Watch, showed us letters that some of the homeless received in jail and also a pickup truck bed filled with suitcases and tarps removed from homeless camps he helped clear out in nearby Kirby Park.

“They are going to keep this Riverfest all out here in the open. They know that it might be dangerous to go back into that part of the park,” Hosey said.

Hosey said the trouble is on the other side of the Market Street Bridge in wooded areas and Wilkes-Barre police have directed the homeless to shelters or a soup kitchen in the city.

The focus now is on a clean, family-friendly environment for fishing and traditional festivities on both sides of the Suquehanna River.

Riverfest continues all day Saturday, and the big dragon boat race is Sunday morning.

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