No decision on fate of Philadelphia encampments until next week

Maggie Kent Image
Thursday, August 20, 2020
No decision on fate of Philly encampments until next week
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In Thursday's hearing, Judge Roberino heard from three tenants of the Philadelphia encampments and city witnesses.

PHILADLEPHIA (WPVI) -- In Thursday's hearing, Judge Roberino heard from three tenants of the Philadelphia encampments and city witnesses, including residents of neighborhoods and the deputy managing director for Health and Human Services.

All those testifying, who live in the encampments, say they would not accept beds offered by the city because it doesn't constitute fair housing for all.

A woman who works as a nurse at the encampment said, specifically, she wants everyone there to be afforded a place to live.

City officials say they're having trouble even offering services to those who live at the encampment because they're not granted access. But that there are 304 shelter beds available.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Robreno ordered a video call on Monday for oral arguments. A final decision on the fate of encampments will be made Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

On Thursday, protesters in favor of the fair housing protest and encampments gathered outside the federal courthouse to demand fair housing for all.

Erected in protest for housing on June 10, the encampment in at Von Colln Park has grown to anywhere from 100 to 200 people.

There are two other encampments, one in the Azalea gardens behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and another set up off Ridge Avenue, right across from the Philadelphia Housing Authority Building.

On Tuesday, the camps were supposed to be cleared by the city but a temporary restraining order filed by lawyers representing the people staying there blocked the encampment removal which was slated for 9 a.m.

The petition for the restraining order says the city would be violating the residents' First Amendment right to protest and also putting residents in danger of contracting COVID-19 if they were forced into shelters.

But Mayor Jim Kenney says they could not come eye-to-eye with demands for immediate housing in housing authority of city owned properties. The mayor said they aren't livable without utilities and federal partners would have to step in.

He spoke about the issue at today's COVID-19 press conference:

"It's a difficult situation to balance. You have the needs of the folks, that we understand the housing needs in this country. We have the needs and desires of people living both neighborhoods one in North Philadelphia, one out on the Parkway. The situation, we're stuck in the middle trying to balance it all with very little resources. So we're doing our best and hopefully will resolve it amicable way," said Kenney.