Residents of Philadelphia homeless encampments say they feel unheard, Kenney says he stands by concerns

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ByJaclyn Lee via WPVI logo
Saturday, September 12, 2020
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After the third attempt by Philadelphia officials to clear the homeless encampments failed on Wednesday, residents say they feel misunderstood and unheard.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- After the third attempt by Philadelphia officials to clear the homeless encampments failed on Wednesday, residents of the camp say they feel misunderstood and unheard. But, Mayor Jim Kenney says, there are other issues that need to be considered.

"I want to correct the statements that we are stockpiling anything - that we are barricading because we plan to be violent - we are not," said Dominique, resident and community member of Camp JDT. "We barricaded to keep the police out because we were worried about the safety of ourselves and our residents."

Kenney said he stands by his concerns about safety and public health in the camps.

On Friday, residents at the encampments said they want one thing: safe housing.

"Obviously no one wants to live in an encampment forever. They are not sleeping outside because they want to," said Jennifer Bennetch, with Occupy PHA.

Kenney said it is difficult to come to any sort of resolution because there's no clear leader at the encampments. The city said it came to a handful of agreements with encampment organizers, making up to 300 vacant properties available for acquisition by nonprofits.

"Shelter is a pathway to permanent housing and a lot of people in those camps are either addicted individuals, or with mental health, or both, and you simply can't hand a set of keys to a house to a person who has all those additional needs," said Kenney.

But activists pushed back against Kenney's recommendation for shelters, saying they don't work.

"If people are telling you, 'I've been in these shelters, I've been abused in these shelters, I've been assaulted in these shelters, I've been bit by insects in these shelters,'" said Yahne Indigo, organizer of BLM Philly. "And that is not better, why would you continuously insist that that is the solution?"

Kenney's office said a handful of agreements include the city working with members of the Philadelphia Housing Action to establish a Community Land Trust or Trusts in Philadelphia, the Office of Homeless Services agreeing to provide services to individuals including security deposits and rental assistance for up to a year.

While protesters said they feel frustrated that Kenney has not seen the camps in person, Kenney said he had multiple face-to-face negotiations with organizers. Protesters invited Kenney to brunch at the camps, on Monday, but there is no word if Kenney will accept.

The city sent Action News the following response: