Stalemate continues at Philly homeless encampment sites

Maggie Kent Image
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Stalemate continues at Philly homeless encampment sites
It's been over a day since residents living in two encampments in Philadelphia were asked to vacate, but these sites have yet to be cleared out.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's been over a day since residents living in two encampments in Philadelphia were asked to vacate, but these sites have yet to be cleared out.

"My family has been in this neighborhood for 70 years," said Ruth Birchett who lives four blocks from the North Philadelphia homeless encampment at Jefferson Street and Ridge Avenue.

Birchett says the lack of attention, funding and resources in her neighborhood must stop. She supports the unhoused peoples' protest.

"These people here who are coming to live on this lot, is a big deal for us because it is accentuating that there's been a problem in this city of land grabs," said Birchett.

READ MORE: Another deadline passes, Philadelphia mayor says city still assessing homeless encampment situation

As another deadline passed to clear out multiple homeless encampments in Philadelphia, city officials say they are assessing the situation as protesters vow not to leave.

"These homeless people here are helping to stand the ground that has been taken away from this community," she said.

Talk to other residents at nearby encampments, like the one in Fairmount along the Ben Franklin Parkway, and patience is wearing thin, though awareness of homeless issues is elevated.

"This is not viable, it's not healthy, it's not good for mental and physical and wellbeing of people. So it's time to go the next step that the city has offered, even if it's temporary," said Jennifer Faller.

After the third attempt by the city to clear encampments failed Wednesday, protesters say the offer of a temporary shelter isn't enough.

"People make the outright decision I'd rather live in a tent than deal with the city," says Mike Wilson, a protest organizer. "We're processing new people non-stop."

One of the main demands is for Philadelphia Housing Authority housing-- which has fallen into disrepair-- be placed in a community land trust for rehabilitation.

"These properties that the city doesn't want to rehabilitate, can easily be turned over to a community land trust and the community can work to rehabilitate those properties," said a protestor.

Eve Gladstein, the managing director of Health and Human Services, says the city offered 62 properties be placed in a trust for non-profits to rehab and utilize.

"They refused to provide that agreement that they wouldn't squat in those 62 properties. So the housing authority is still going through with this process with making those 62 houses available," said Gladstein.

Action News asked Mayor Jim Kenney why has it been so difficult to find common ground and negotiate.

"We've had all kind of requests that we've tried to fulfill and when we've tried to fulfill them, or pledge to them, then the requests or demands change again. The goalposts move further and further away," said Kenney.

The mayor also cites the fact there is no one organization or leader of the protests, making it a challenge to identify and agree on negotiation terms.

The city says it continues to send homeless outreach workers to the encampment sites. It's working on another plan to "end things amicably."