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 Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 9 a.m. This is the third such posting for the Parkway camp.
About the posting, Mayor Jim Kenney said, “We have spent nearly three months engaging in good faith negotiations with organizers and those who are living in the camps. We’ve listened, discussed, and responded to their demands, and I’m proud of a number of actions that are already underway.
“The protests have brought new attention to the magnitude of the suffering endured, primarily by Black Philadelphians, and I appreciate all involved for shining a spotlight on this critical issue. We are committed to working together with homeless people and their many advocates and supporters for policies and programs that will make ending homelessness a reality.
“However, for the health and safety of all involved, including the surrounding community, we can no longer allow the camps to continue. I urge those still in the camps to voluntarily decamp before Wednesday, September 9, avail themselves of the beneficial services being offered, and join the 111 people who have come in and are now working on a housing plan.”
A summary of the City and PHA actions in response to the demands is available HERE. They include, but are not limited to:
- The City established 260 rooms in COVID Prevention Sites, which are hotels, to house individuals who are particularly at risk for COVID, including those 65 or over or with underlying medical conditions.
- Planning is underway for a pilot Tiny House Village.
- We are establishing a new Rapid Rehousing Program (up to two years of rental assistance) for individuals currently living on the street.
- New federal funds have been made available to create additional long-term housing opportunities. In partnership with PHA and others, we estimate that 900-1400 new long-term housing units will be created to house people who are currently unhoused, of very low or no income, and/or with disabilities. This includes piloting new models directly from the street. It includes Single Room Occupancy housing, shallow rent subsidy, shared housing, rapid rehousing and permanent subsidized housing. This is on top of the $4.5M for homelessness prevention to help people avoid entering shelter in the first place, especially as the economic impact of COVID continues to hurt our communities.”
The City’s Homeless Outreach has been offering services at the camps on a regular basis. As of Friday, August 28, 2020, 111 people have accepted housing – some at residential treatment centers, some in shelter, and others at one of the COVID Prevention Sites. Once these individuals are housed, the City immediately begins working with them to create plans for permanent housing.
Eva Gladstein, Deputy Managing Director for Health and Human Services added, “In addition to the new investments in long-term housing and prevention, we will maintain our emergency housing system at current capacity, a system that has proven itself to be more than capable of keeping people safe through the COVID pandemic. Since the emergency was declared in March, we have sheltered more than 6,500 people; there were 120 COVID positive cases.
“To meet the immediate need of families who have lost income due to COVID we are implementing rental assistance programs that will distribute up to $38 million to help more than 10,000 families this year. Renters in need can apply at phlrentassist.org. In addition, the City is finalizing an eviction diversion program that will launch in September. This program brings tenants and landlords together to try to resolve potential evictions with a solution that keeps the tenant housed.
“We are committed to working with camp organizers and those who are unhoused to continue to address the important issues that they have raised.”
Kelvin A. Jeremiah, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, said, “I am again calling on the encampment leaders to work constructively with PHA and the City to take advantage of the services being offered like the many other encampment residents have already done, and to work with us to find long terms solutions to address the housing needs of unhoused and low income Philadelphians. As we move forward, PHA remains committed to our mission to expand affordable housing options as well as creating economic activity in historically disinvested communities and continuing to serve our 80,000 residents across the city.”
Through September 9, the City and PHA will continue all of its efforts to resolve this issue amicably. Homeless Outreach and many partners plan to meet with occupants, learn their needs, and connect them to housing and services.