FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
341 Frontline Healthcare and Homeless Outreach Workers Come Out Against Evicting the James Talib-Dean Encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Call for Action to Meet Encampment’s Demands for Permanent Housing and to Stop City’s “Traumatizing” Homeless Response Strategy
July 15, 2020, Philadelphia, PA
As catastrophe draws closer, 341 of Philadelphia’s healthcare and homeless outreach workers presented Mayor Kenney, the Managing Director’s Office and the Members of City Council with a letter against its eviction scheduled for the morning of July 17, 2020. The City has responded to the letter.
The JTD Camp has been organized as a protest in alignment with Black Lives Matter Movement, the push for defunding the police and investing in communities, including housing, healthcare and jobs. The JTD organizers have stated that their primary purpose is to attain permanent housing for the Camp residents. So far, the City and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) have offered zero units of permanent housing. Additionally, the city has refused to negotiate any transfers of its large surplus of vacant houses or exercise its jurisdiction over the Housing Authority. Legislation enacted in 2012, entrusted the Mayor’s Office with the duty to hold the Housing Authority accountable after years of scandal and mismanagement. Mayor Kenney continues to neglect his duties, a pattern well-known to most Philadelphians.
The letter questions the city’s homeless encampment response over the last three years, calling its tactics “traumatizing”. It continues by focusing on the lack of accessible, self-selected and safe housing for unhoused persons and specifically for Black Philadelphians. The letter states that the encampment’s demands are reasonable and its goals embody core values in the field: self-determination, dignity and justice.
“This letter shows that JTD organizers and residents are in alignment with Philadelphia’s frontline healthcare and homeless outreach workers. We know encampments can be unsafe and unsanitary because the city intentionally allows to be,” said Sterling Johnson, JTD Organizer the Black & Brown Workers Copperative. “Individuals who are tasked every day to serve people experiencing homelessness know that we must focus on permanent housing. Here, outreach workers have made a statement in direct conflict with the the Mayor’s Office and other homeless advocates that claim that outreach services will meet the Camp residents’ needs. We are grateful for their support and that they have implored the city to take immediate action to open vacant properties and provide housing now.”