Residents concerned over cleanliness, safety after drug debris found across from local youth center

PITTSBURGH — Neighbors and people who work in the city of Pittsburgh reached out to Channel 11, concerned about what they found across from a local youth center, in what’s supposed to be a city green space.

We went to Chestnut Street, right across from the Sarah Heinz house and found a massive homeless encampment with hundreds of needles, drug paraphernalia and garbage.

“What are you doing to address the issue?”

That’s the question Nick Santillo has for the city of Pittsburgh and Mayor Ed Gainey. He’s working to start a nonprofit with the goal of raising money to clean up sites all around Pittsburgh.

“It makes a hazard area for people walking there, walking their dogs. Even along the bike trail, I’ve had to tell people not to let their dogs walk along the trail,” Santillo added. “We want to work with the city and have some cooperation to work together and get it done.”

Another concerned citizen says he’s worked downtown for 20 years and he’s never seen so many needles until now.

This comes as Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday he’s adding a drug called Xylazine, also known as Tranq, to a list of scheduled drugs, to reduce overdose deaths. This will allow law enforcement and prosecutors to go after dealers.

Tranq, which isn’t an opioid, is being used to cut opioids like fentanyl, but overdoses from fentanyl cut with Tranq cannot be reversed with Narcan.

As for Chestnut Street, neighbors want it cleaned up now.

We reached out to the city of Pittsburgh to see if they’re aware of this and what their plan is to clean it up.

A spokesperson for Mayor Ed Gainey said:

The city is aware of the concerns around the trash and conditions of this encampment and are actively working through our ROOTS outreach workers to engage with the residents in this encampment around cleaning up the camp. They have been working to identify what is personal, important belongings, and have also been provided with heavy duty trashbags for clean up. Our DPW crews will later this week be working to collect the garbage from the encampment. Further - we are currently working with our partners to learn what we need to do to provide for safer disposal of needles through sharps boxes in order to protect the health and safety for everyone.

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