By Erin Flynn Jay Owner at Flynn Media www.flynnmedia.com
It has been over 60 days now since the homeless took residence on the Ben Franklin Parkway. The City was set to close the encampment on July 17. Aiming to avoid a police confrontation with the 100 to 150 people living there, Mayor Jim Kenney postponed the shutdown to meet personally with encampment organizers, the Inquirer reported.
Where do things stand on talks with encampment organizers? Mike Dunn, Senior Deputy Communications Director for the City of Philadelphia, said the City continues working to reach an agreement for an amicable resolution to the camps while also actively connecting people experiencing homelessness to the services they need.
The second encampment is in a vacant lot on the corner of Ridge Avenue and Jefferson Street in Sharswood outside the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s headquarters.
“Mayor Kenney has had several productive meetings with camp leadership to listen to their concerns. The Mayor felt it was critically important for him to get involved personally. His conversation focused on identifying actionable issues that the City and PHA can address,” Dunn told Pivedite.
Mayor Kenney told Pivedite: “I recognize that the racial inequities in our society impact homelessness and frankly have informed inadequate solutions. Our Administration shares the belief that policy failures for generations have brought us to this point, and we are committed to enacting meaningful reforms that help keep people in their homes, expand affordable housing, and improve pathways to home ownership in the City of Philadelphia – especially for communities of color. At the same time, the camps can’t stay in these locations indefinitely. I will continue our efforts to work out an agreement and bring this to an amicable resolution.”
There are no current plans to close the Parkway encampment down and move the homeless elsewhere.
What are the housing alternatives under discussion? On the Parkway, Dunn said the City provided three weeks of Homeless Connect, an event with several service providers on site to let people know what options are available to them. Teams have now succeeded in getting 80 people into emergency, temporary housing, safe havens and the COVID Prevention Space. This includes several couples who have been housed together.
The Office of Homeless Services has also offered services at the camp on Ridge Avenue including the provision of security deposits or other financial assistance to help families access permanent housing. “It is through these engagements that permanent housing plans can be developed, as the City shared with camp organizers several weeks ago,” said Dunn.
The City is not aware of the number of adults and children living in the encampment now, as outreach teams have been denied access.
What are some proposed solutions for this homeless crisis?
Of course, there is no single solution, but Dunn said that during the course of these negotiations, the City has committed to several important steps, including support for the establishment of a Tiny House Village, and support for a Community Land Trust.
In addition, the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) has issued an RFP dedicating ESG funds for Shared Housing and Project Based Rapid Rehousing. Another proposal for Shallow Rent will be forthcoming. The City agreed to, and has opened, 2 COVID prevention sites offering a total of 260 beds, and has made shelter, safe haven and treatment beds available.