Gimme Shelter

Activists continue their “Tuesdays with Kenney” protests to demand an end to evictions and reforms to city housing policies

Last month, ACT UP and other Philadelphia-based housing activists continued their protests at Mayor Jim Kenney’s Old City Condo at 301 Race St, in Philadelphia to demand the city end all evictions including those of encampments and homeless shelters, reforms to the Office of Homeless Services, the immediate re-opening of COVID hotels and other reforms to the city’s housing policies. The Protest is part of what activists have termed “Tuesday With Kenney,” consisting of weekly demonstrations with cookouts to call on the Mayor to create more housing and overhaul the Office of Homeless Services.

Two weeks prior (July 27th) activists claim Philadelphia Police Officers violently attacked and removed them from the area cutting short the protest.

“We were peacefully protesting for unhoused and disabled people, and we were met with state violence, but we will not be silenced,” said housing activist Jamaal Henderson.

A Spokesperson for the Department disputes activist accounts and claim protesters were trespassing on private property in a driveway at the rear of the building.

Two protesters and a police officer were taken to Jefferson Hospital for minor injuries, the two protesters were arrested and processed after their release from the hospital, according to authorities.

For years the City of Philadelphia has cleared homeless encampment after homeless encampment in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia and in other neighborhoods to little effect, people remain unhoused, needles still litter the streets, and nothing changes because these folks have nowhere to go.

Housing activists have long called for the city to stop the so-called sweeps, pointing out that there are never enough beds in shelters, housing units or treatment beds for those with addiction disorders. They point out that breaking up these encampments only make the problems face by those living in them and the community at large worse.

(The city executed another massive sweep of the Kensington homeless encampments on August 18, 2021.)

Kensington encampment tenant prepares to leave during city sweep on August 18.

The city has long faced a dual crisis of homelessness and opioid abuse, which has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and the city’s refusal to listen to activists, advocates on the ground and those being directly affected by a lack of housing or an opioid disorder.

This is why one of the demands issued by ACT UP and housing activists is for the Office of Homeless Services to form a paid oversight board staffed by shelter residents, people receiving OHS support for permanent housing, and unhoused individuals, to invest in skilled facilitators and training in areas related to its oversight authority.

“The failure of the Office of Homeless Services shows us that the leadership isn’t qualified to do their job, so in addition to the oversight board, we are asking the city to terminate and replace that leadership approved by the oversight board,” said Henderson.

Philadelphia is supposed to be a housing-first city, but unhoused individuals and shelter residents claim to continue to be evicted from and denied shelter beds due to their substance abuse issues. This has driven those who suffer from addiction disorders to use in isolation and continues to drive opioid and fentanyl overdose deaths.

“We’re calling for the city to review all city contractors and their policies to ensure that trauma-informed and housing first policies and practices are in place for all city funded shelters and homeless services providers,” said Henderson.

Activists are also calling for the city to re-open the COVID hotels, apply for FEMA reimbursement and invest money into creating accessible city run, housing first, trauma-informed shelters that work for all people regardless of gender, family size or configuration and accessibility needs.

They are continuing their calls from last year for the city to convert all city owned and PHA properties into permanent, safe, affordable housing for all unhoused or housing unstable Philadelphians.

We will continue to come back here, City Hall, or wherever we need to go until we get this done, we can’t afford to wait for more broken promises from Mayor Kenney,” said Henderson.

All photos courtesy of Cory Clark (Lawless Media)

 

About Cory Clark 10 Articles
Cory Clark is a Photojournalist and writer focused on Human Rights and other social issues. His work can be found in hundreds of media outlets from Philly Magazine to Fortune. He has been a long time freelancer for Getty Images, The Associated Press, and Association French Presse. Cory, his wife, and son are residents of East Germantown.

2 Comments

  1. There is a Rally and speak out infront of Mayor Kenney’s Condo building 301 Race Street, this Tues. Over the housing crisis and lack of healthcare, if you really loving our community this is one of those times and places you need to get off your butts and in them streets. This is about all of us!

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