On August 11, Tumar Alexander, CEO of Philadelphia said a crowded auditorium at Lewis Elkins Elementary School, the city prefers a service approach to camp resolutions – government language for encampment sweeps. The police don’t beat or kick people out.
But according to ACT UP Philadelphia Jamaal Henderson, police raided Kensington last Wednesday in a planned sweep of two camps. With large areas closed to public view, they only later learned that many homeless people had seen their belongings thrown in the trash that morning.
“You have people who are already homeless, who already feel like the city just doesn’t care about them,” Henderson said. “Then they have to go through the trauma of repeatedly having what little they may have thrown away.”
About 10 years ago, ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, turned its attention to the housing crisis in Philadelphia to tackle the HIV epidemic in the city. Affordable housing is a critical barrier to HIV management and prevention for many low-income people, especially black transgender people and gender non-conforming people of color – communities where HIV rates are rising. ACT UP therefore took to the streets to protest peacefully to urge the city to act.
The campaign for “Air Mayor Kenney’s Dirty Laundry” accuses top Philadelphia politicians of mismanaging the housing crisis and favoring for-profit developers over low-income and homeless residents. ACT UP supports that initiatives like the Housing Trust Fund and Housing tax credits for low-income people benefit those who need it least. Meanwhile, the group said, the Philadelphia Housing Authority sells viable houses to develop homes unsuitable for families.
Activists accuse the mayor of abdicating his responsibilities. In a Housing equity plan 2018, Kenney has offered more than 100,000 homes in 10 years. According to ACT UP’s Max Ray-Riek, the mayor did not fail to achieve his goals.
He didn’t try.
Ray-Riek explained that the mayor make cuts or attempted cuts Homeless Services Office and the Housing Trust Fund as the eviction crisis looms.
“You have the opioid crisis,” Ray-Riek said. “You have COVID, which makes it especially dangerous when people are overtaken and live in more crowded conditions. “
“And you have the HIV crisis going on,” he continued. “We need to air out this dirty laundry.”
A city spokesperson told the metro that the city shares ACT UP’s concerns, highlighting a $ 100 million investment in rental assistance linked to COVID and the Philadelphia Deportation Prevention Program. All homelessness is too much, the spokesperson said, noting that the OHS has a ‘housing first’ approach – a statement that Henderson, Ray-Riek and others in the housing community support is not true.
“Philadelphia continues to have the lowest number of homeless people on the streets of any major US city – as of 2020, we have reduced chronic homelessness on the streets by 12%,” the door said. – speech of the city. “And we have reduced family homelessness in Philadelphia by 25% since 2017. Despite unprecedented pressures from a growing wealth gap, lack of affordable housing and the opioid crisis, Philadelphia continues to stay a course. advance in providing effective and compassionate solutions to the homeless. “
Additionally, the spokesperson shared several other statistics, citing the city’s network of 60 providers and a known COVID infection rate in shelters of less than 3% over the past year.
Yet organizers want the mayor to stop saying homelessness has fallen in Philadelphia, research shows unsheltered populations are underestimated.
“I swear he picks very careful stats,” said Ray-Riek.
To push the point, ACT UP organized a series of peaceful protests outside the home of Kenney’s Center City. They brought a list of requests – to finish all evictions, reopening COVID hotels and replacing OHS leadership, among others – in the hopes of sparking a conversation. The protests had a festive atmosphere, like a dance party during the pride, to celebrate the leadership of gay people and people living with HIV who are fighting to end homelessness.
But a barbecue outside the mayor’s house in July turned violent when police arrived, sending at least five organizers to hospital. According to Jamaal Henderson, ACT UP has been speaking with city officials for months, with the last meeting ending in frustration.
“I have the impression that the people in the administration, the people in power at the moment, think that we should not question them because they know better,” they said.
True Housing First policies can lift people out of poverty, prevent fatal overdoses, and help manage HIV. However, according to ACT UP, the Philadelphia model is insufficient in trauma-informed care, with shelters penalizing people for minor violations of the law. No Smoking in treatment centers how the encampment sweeps – resolutions – destroys the security that comes from a community.
“We have been tell the city, More precisely [OHS] how harmful these evictions are for yearsSaid Adrienne Standley, harm reduction specialist and ACT UP organizer. “And I haven’t seen the city change almost anything.”
And until the city changes, ACT UP says they will continue to broadcast Mayor Kenney’s dirty laundry.