City of Philadelphia, Ben Franklin Parkway encampment leaders reach agreement

Wednesday, October 14, 2020
EMBED <>More Videos

Leaders at the homeless encampment discuss next steps after an agreement was reached with the City of Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The City of Philadelphia announced an agreement with leaders of an encampment on the Ben Franklin Parkway on Tuesday evening.

The agreement means that residents of the encampment will leave by the end of the week, according to a news release from Mayor Jim Kenney's office.

"Under terms of the agreement, City officials and (Philadelphia Housing Authority) will transfer a total of 50 properties to a land trust established by the encampment residents," the statement read.

The transfer will be in phases: within five days, the city will provide site control and access to up to ten properties. And within six months, the city will transfer an additional 40 city owned properties.

"We'll be rehabbing those units and they'll be designated as permanent low income housing for a period of 20 years, but we plan to keep them forever or for as long as we can," said OccupyPHA Founder Jennifer Bennetech.

The camp on the Parkway has been the source of controversy for several months, with a resolution proving elusive until now.

The encampment drew the ire of many residents who live nearby who demanded it be removed. In a statement, Council President Darrell Clark who represents them said, "The residents of these neighborhoods have the right to peace and safety and this agreement preserves that right."

Camp leaders have said they were protesting to bring awareness to the city's homelessness problem and are demanding safe housing.

The city reached a deal with a similar encampment on Ridge Avenue last week, and the camp was promptly dismantled.

RELATED: PHA, protesters reach deal to end encampment on Ridge Avenue

"I just feel like it's a big victory because change has to start somewhere," said Bennetech.

Bennetech said some of the residents of the encampment will be trained in building and construction to rehab the properties.

"Some residents are likely willing to go in to some of the shelters and services that otherwise wouldn't have been because they are really excited about this land," Bennetech said.

Bennetech said in fact some of the residents of the encampment have already packed up and left to accept those services. She expects the others will be vacating by the end of the week.

The following was released by the mayor's office:

The Philadelphia Housing Authority, city officials and encampment leaders have reached an agreement resolution involving the encampment known as "James Talib Dean Camp," located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Residents of the camp will voluntarily vacate the encampment site by the end of this week. Under terms of the agreement, City officials and PHA will transfer a total of 50 properties to a land trust established by the encampment residents.

The transfer of the properties will be accomplished in four phases detailed in the agreement:

  • Within five days of the resolution of the camp and establishment of the Land Trust, the city will enter into an agreement to provide site control and access, on a temporary basis, to up to 10 properties to the Land Trust.
  • Within six months of the resolution of the camp, the city will enter into agreements to transfer up to an additional 40 city-owned properties identified by the Land Trust.
  • Of those 40, 25 will be transferred to the City within 45 days by PHA, using properties from closed Rental Assistance Demonstrations (RAD) transactions.
  • The remaining 15 properties will be city-owned properties identified by the Land Trust and which the city agrees are suitable for transfer to the Land Trust.

In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said:

"As with last week's resolution of the Ridge Avenue camp, this agreement is the result of a lot of hard work by all of those involved, and I thank everyone for their efforts. This took a long time, but an amicable resolution was always my goal, and I'm pleased that this has been achieved. I also want to thank the camp leaders and residents for elevating Philadelphia's affordable housing crisis in the public eye. We have an agreement, but the larger issues remain -- particularly amid a global pandemic -- and we all need to rededicate ourselves to finding bold solutions.

"Thanks as well go to City Council, particularly Council President Darrell Clarke, and Council members Jaimie Gauthier and Kendra Brooks, who devoted countless hours participating in discussions with encampment organizers. I also want to voice sincere appreciation to PHA CEO Kelvin Jeremiah for his personal commitment and dedication in helping resolve both encampments. Finally, I want to sincerely thank the Parkway neighbors for their patience and understanding. Throughout the past four months, many neighbors voiced their concerns to me about the situation, and frequently did so by acknowledging the larger issues that led to the camp. You have my commitment that the area will be fully restored and available for all Philadelphians."

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke in a statement said:

"On behalf of the residents of the surrounding communities of Fairmount, Spring Garden and Logan Square, I'm pleased that an agreement has been reached to resolve and end the encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The residents of these neighborhoods have the right to live in peace and safety, and this agreement helps preserve that right. I've been dedicated to the cause of affordable housing for my entire career in City Council, and our efforts will continue energetically across the 5th District and the entire city."