PHILADELPHIA – Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) and Kendra Brooks (At-Large) issued the following statement on the agreement reached between the City, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), and the organizers of the James Talib-Dean (JTD) Camp on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway:
“With the agreement Mayor Kenney announced last night between the City, PHA and encampment organizers, Philadelphia is yet again serving as an example to cities around the country that removal of encampments by force is not the only option – and should not even be an option to begin with.
From the start of our involvement as mediators in the negotiations, we encouraged Mayor Kenney and PHA leadership to work with the encampments – which were inhabited by a majority-Black group of protesters and individuals experiencing homelessness – to ensure that concrete, long-term housing options were provided for any resident who needed them, and to establish open lines of communication so that an amicable resolution could be reached. Between the transfer of vacant publicly-owned properties to a new Land Bank, the development of two new tiny home developments, a new rapid rehousing program for 50 encampment residents, and implementation of the Community Choice Registration Program, among other provisions, and after over 30 hours of negotiations, we believe that the City and PHA have fulfilled this request.
We are incredibly grateful for the patience and perseverance of all parties involved, who remained at the negotiating table even when conversations were challenging and the obstacles felt insurmountable. We thank the encampment organizers and residents for shining a bright light on this critically important issue, and we thank the City and PHA for using creativity and finding flexibility within an often-prohibitively rigid system.
This agreement marks a key step on the path towards housing justice in our city, but the road continues. Even before COVID-19, far too many Philadelphia residents had the threat of homelessness looming over their heads – and now that number has increased dramatically. The urgency of our city’s housing crisis has never been more immediate, with tens of thousands of Philadelphians out of work and unable to pay rent. As we continue to navigate the pandemic and its economic impacts, City leaders will need to work hand-in-hand with social movements to continue these vital efforts.
Justice is attainable, it is worth staying the course, and it is our responsibility as elected officials to do everything in our power to achieve it.
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