How’s everyone feel about refugees during a housing crisis?
It’s your girl, P.O.C. back in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, talking with residents about Afghan refugees. Philly is one of 19 US cities resettling evacuees fleeing the Taliban. More than 8,500 have arrived at our airport in what some experts are calling a once-in-a-generation crisis.
But we’ve got a housing crisis of our own, here, with an unhoused population of roughly 5,700 Philadelphians. On any given night in our city, nearly a thousand of our citizens sleep on the streets – a number that’s surprisingly modest considering our reputation as America’s poorest city. In fact, of all largest cities in the US, Philly has the lowest numbers of people experiencing homelessness (per capita).
Still: as the resettlement process gets underway, many Philadelphians are questioning how city, state and federal officials can find shelter and funding for displaced people from other countries, but not our own neighbors. Where do we stand on this apparent contraction?
Are you Mad or Nah? I hit the streets with my microphone, here’s what folks on your block are saying.
Neighbors sound off! NOTE: Some speakers provide their names & neighborhoods, some don’t. Check out their voices in P.O.C.’s original recorded interviews, transcribed here:
- No, I do wish there was more involvement with the citizens of our city. But I don’t think it necessarily needs to be mutually exclusive with refugees. I think we should be helping refugees — we should be doing more for both. That shouldn’t necessarily be a trade off. There should be more money and more investment into our community as well, but not at the expense of refusing these refugees. Helping refugees is also important. — Kevin, Northern Liberties
- It doesn’t make me mad. But it makes me think that the leader should pay attention to their citizens that live here already, as well as refugees that are coming from other countries for sure. — Vanessa, resident
- I gotta say, it doesn’t really make me mad. Because personally I think we shouldn’t be pitting vulnerable groups against each other. Both you and I know between the city of Philadelphia, and the federal government, they have enough money, right? They have enough resources to address all of these problems. So realistically, we can do both: address the problems that are already facing the city, while welcoming these new vulnerable people in from across the globe. — Mike, West Philly
- Absolutely. I don’t understand why the money just come out of the sky for you know, refugees. I understand you got the refugees and undocumented citizens. But you know, sometimes you got to take care of your home, you got to secure your home base. You know, you got homies out here, running rampant, running crazy. You got the drug population, people dying on trains, overdosing and whatnot. So I really don’t understand, why we trying to take care of another country, you know, when we can’t take care of home. — Resident, North Philadelphia
- I do feel like we need to pay a lot of attention to those two issues with the homelessness and the moratorium. I do think some things are being done. I don’t think it’s absolutely nothing. And I would hope that this is a federal partnership as far as the refugee stuff. I have a feeling the Biden administration with their close relationship with the mayor might have had a hand in providing funding and setting the whole thing up. — Nicola, Germantown
- No, it don’t make me mad. It just shows the attitude and the mindset of America, period. They care about outsiders than their own people. And that’s throughout history. So you know, hey, what else can you say? – Resident, North Side
- I understand why they’re doing it, but I still think they should have been taking care of issues here long ago before this even has come about. There’s been homelessness, there’s been people starving, people no jobs, people no health care, no place to live. And it’s been like that and now you’re taking care of people, and these people over here…? I understand why they’re doing it. I hate what is happening there, but take care of home first. – Donna, Mt Airy
Mad or Nah is an original woman-on-the-street interview series from REVIVE Radio that asks Philadelphians about issues impacting their everyday life. This edition originally aired Aug 11, 2021 on WHYY.com.
Tamara Russell aka Proof of Consciousness aka P.O.C. hosts and produces a variety of award-winning shows featured on Uptown Radio 98.5FM and Philly’s WHYY/NPR/PBS outlets. Read more in our feature on this multi-talented motivator, Wouldn’t It Be NICE? (June 2021).