Homeless encampment residents ask to meet Philadelphia mayor as stalemate continues; Kenney declines

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney declined an invitation for brunch extended by homeless encampment organizers.

Those who have been living in tents along the Ben Franklin Parkway extended an invitation to Mayor Kenney to join them for some "brunch and conversation." The invitation came as tensions grow at two sites: one along the Parkway and another on Ridge Avenue near the Philadelphia Housing Authority building.



Tents have taken over a nearby baseball field, and the barricaded encampment along the Parkway has metal bars and wooden planks, which encampment residents said are there to keep police out.

Residents said they are worried about their safety as they continue fighting for what they are calling safe housing.

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

"Without housing, it's people out here who develop mental health issues, drug abuse issues without adequate and safe housing, and that's what we're fighting for," said Kane, a resident at the encampment.

The city said it came to a handful of agreements with encampment organizers, making up to 300 vacant properties available for acquisition by nonprofits. Residents argue it's not safe to live in a shelter.

"The things that we have to endure inside those shelters, from being discriminated against, abused, being robbed, having to sleep with one eye open," said Jenelle, a resident of the encampment.

Mayor Kenney said it's difficult to come to any sort of resolution because there's no clear leader at the encampments.

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Residents in the area are taking notice.

"The mayor has set all these deadlines to get them to leave, and I haven't seen any muscle behind that or evidence that he means for them to leave, but maybe that's just a tactic," said Thomas Huber of Fairmount.

Multiple deadlines from the city have come and gone for residents of the encampment to leave, but they remain along the Parkway and outside Philadelphia Housing Authority's headquarters.

READ MORE: Another deadline passes, Philadelphia mayor says city still assessing homeless encampment situation
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"The city doesn't want to be heavy-handed. They just can't come in here and rip stuff down cause optically it's not going to look good," said Phillip Divon of Fairmount.

Some people who live in homes nearby said it's time for their new neighbors to move out.

"It's become a severe nuisance, it's not clean," said Huber. "It's time for them to go, with all respect."

Encampment residents said they have asked the mayor to brunch twice now, but said they have not heard back from him.

The mayor's office issued the following response to the invitation Monday morning:

"The mayor respectfully declines the invitation. He met face-to-face with the group in good faith on several occasions and does not feel another meeting - with media present - is appropriate at this time. He also believes another meeting would be unproductive, as past meetings have been. Camp leaders could not agree on their demands, which repeatedly changed, and were in many cases out of the City's control."
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