PHILADELPHIA – City officials today posted formal notice at the protest camps on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and on Ridge Avenue that the camps must resolve no later than Tuesday, August 18, 2020 at 9 a.m.
This is the second such posting for the Parkway camp. After the first, on July 10, Mayor Kenney postponed the action and personally interceded in the negotiations in order to reach an amicable resolution. “After several weeks of face-to-face discussions, and after more than two months of concerted efforts by our administration, I have come to the conclusion that further negotiations would be fruitless,” said Mayor Kenney. “I take this step again with a heavy heart, as a last resort, and in recognition of the growing health and safety concerns at the sites.
“As we have said from the onset, we respect the right of people to protest peacefully, and fully share the residents’ concerns about the lack of affordable housing,” the Mayor continued. “But we have also been clear that the encampment is not a long term solution. When I stepped into these discussions, I voiced the hope that a resolution was possible. I no longer harbor such hope.
“The continued shifting of camp leaders’ demands, and the fact that some of their repeated demands are out of the City’s control, or unachievable in the time frame that they demand, all contribute to this difficult decision,” the Mayor said. “I again thank our external partners who devoted many hours towards a solution and thank our Parkway neighbors and the Fairmount Sports Association for their patience during this period, as well as the community near the Ridge Avenue camp. Despite this outcome, my administration’s larger commitment to enacting meaningful reforms that help keep people in their homes, expand affordable housing options for those with low or no income and disabilities, and improve pathways to home ownership in the City of Philadelphia–especially for communities of color–will not waver.”
Throughout the negotiations, teams of homeless outreach workers continued to talk with and engage those people who were interested. On the Parkway, this included three weeks of Homeless Connect, an event with several service providers on site to let people know what options are available to them. Teams succeeded in getting more than 80 people into emergency, temporary housing, safe havens and the COVID Prevention Space. This includes several couples who have been housed together. However, outreach workers faced continued difficulties in being allowed to connect with residents of the camp, and the City now concludes that further outreach at the site is no longer productive. Outreach conducted at the camp on Ridge Avenue also had limited success.
“PHA, the City, and the encampment leaders all agree that everyone deserves decent housing and there is an affordable housing crisis. However, the encampment is not the solution. The encampment leaders unreasonable demands would have required PHA to violate federal policies or regulations and that is not acceptable,” said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. “PHA is committed to the work we have planned with the Sharswood community and want to thank them as well as the Brewerytown Sharswood Neighborhood Advisory Committee for their patience and their continued support. PHA remains dedicated to serving our residents and to our mission of providing affordable housing throughout the city.”
During the negotiations, the City, along with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, committed to a number of concrete actions, including but not limited to:
- Sanctioned Encampments: The City is willing to consider establishing a temporary sanctioned encampment at another site, but it must have the support of the community residents and the District Council member for that use.
- Tiny House Villages: The City agrees to support the establishment of a Tiny House Village this year. It will not replace any existing or future low-income housing funds.
- Creation of new permanent housing units: The Office of Homeless Services (OHS) has issued an RFP dedicating ESG funds for Shared Housing and Project Based Rapid Rehousing. Another proposal for Shallow Rent will be forthcoming. The total funds on the table through these sources is more than $7M dollars.
- The City agreed to and has opened 2 COVID prevention sites offering a total of 260 beds. To date, 17 people from JDT Camp have entered; more referrals are pending.
- The City has made shelter, safe haven and treatment beds available. More than 80 individuals from the camp have been housed to date.
- Support of a Community Land Trust: The City is willing to work with Philadelphia Housing Action members on establishing a Community Land Trust or Trusts in Philadelphia.
- PHA Police: The Kenney Administration has announced and begun several measures to improve police department accountability. In order to address concerns about PHA Police conduct, PHA will fully participate in the police reform initiative.
- Moratorium on Sales of PHA Properties: PHA agrees to institute a Property Sale Moratorium on new fair market value property sales via auction, brokers or direct sales until completion of independent study not to exceed 9 months.
- Community Concerns about PHA Scattered Sites: PHA will designate a Scattered Site Ombudsman to serve as primary point of contact for inquiries or complaints regarding vacant PHA owned units and to administer the CCRP.
- Need for continued collaboration: The City has committed to continuing to work with Philadelphia Housing Action on homeless and treatment system reforms and the expansion of available permanent housing.
During negotiations last week, leaders of the protest camp verbally committed to drawing up a written agreement reflecting these and other commitments by the City and PHA, as well as their own commitment to resolve the camp. That document, however, did not accurately reflect the written offers that the City had previously provided during the negotiations. The three organizations that created the camp stated their intention to remain at both sites unless the City and PHA agreed to all of their demands. This statement cemented the City’s perception that further negotiations would be futile and led to today’s decision to post formal notice.