PHA And OccupyPHA Reach A Deal to End Encampment

Media Contact For PHA:
Nichole Tillman, 215-888-2869
[email protected]

Agreement clears the way to begin construction of new supermarket in Sharswood

(Philadelphia – October 5, 2020) – The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and OccupyPHA have reached an amicable resolution involving the Ridge Avenue encampment known as “Camp Teddy,” the encampment located across the street from PHA’s headquarters.

“I want to thank all of those whose hard work and good faith negotiating resulted in this resolution,” said Mayor Kenney. “As I have said from the start, the issues raised by the camp leaders — homelessness and the lack of affordable housing – are deep rooted and urgent. We hope this agreement will lead to a resolution of the separate protest camp on the Parkway. And we hope it will lead to new impetus among all partners to solve these vexing problems.”

“I would like to thank Ms. Bennetch and the other encampment leaders for highlighting the urgent need for long-term permanent housing and the need for more resources to address homelessness. I have always said that there is an affordable housing crisis in Philadelphia and that PHA is willing to do its part to help solve this problem, but we cannot do it alone. There needs to be true collaboration of resources and ideas to meaningfully address this problem,” said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, PHA’s President and CEO. “I would also like to thank Ryan N. Boyer and Building and Construction Trades Council for being a true partner not only by words but by actions. It is also important that we address the older housing stock that has not been maintained due to the insufficient federal funding. And finally, I would like to thank the Sharswood Community for their support and patience during these challenging times. With zoning, building permits and financing in hand, your grocery store is on its way as promised.”

The agreement, completed after nearly four months of negotiations, resulted in the residents of Camp Teddy voluntarily vacating the encampment site on October 5th. Importantly, the accord will clear the way for the now delayed construction program to begin on a mixed-use development, including a supermarket for the Sharswood neighborhood, long sought by the community, along with 98 units of housing, a bank, an urgent care center and other retail businesses.

The agreement ensures residents of Camp Teddy can opt-in to social services from Project HOME and/or the City of Philadelphia and be given a pathway to permanent affordable housing. This innovative solution demonstrates what can happen when organizations put their differences aside and collaborate on a common goal.

PHA has created an unprecedented pilot program called “Working for Home Repair Training Program” with the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC). The program will create housing and job opportunities for those experiencing homelessness through the renovation of long-term vacant structures, some of which have been unoccupied for over 20 years. This will allow those without homes to put in sweat equity alongside union workers to become invested in their home and the community.

“In late June, OccupyPHA along with residents of the Parkway Encampment (known as Camp JTD) moved to parcels of land located across from PHA’s Headquarters with the goal of pressuring PHA to come to the table regarding the housing crisis in Philadelphia and to discuss uses for long term vacant PHA properties. At times it seemed like all of our efforts would be in vain, however we were able to reach an agreement with PHA to create a Community Land Trust for permanent low income housing with long term vacant PHA properties that were going to be disposed of. We appreciate PHA’s willingness to explore this idea with us, we look forward to our new venture and hope that it leads to lasting change,” said Jennifer Bennetch, OccupyPHA Founder.

“We understand the importance of hard work and being invested in the community you live in. The Work 4 Home pilot program will change people’s lives forever. We look forward to working with PHA and teaching people how to create better lives for themselves and their families as well as expanding the program to help generations to come,” said Ryan N. Boyer, President BCTC. “I would also like to thank Kelvin A. Jeremiah and PHA for including BCTC in this important initiative and for keeping his commitment to the Sharswood Community and the $52 million community development project that will not only bring a supermarket and housing, but also much needed jobs to the city,” Boyer said.

“We applaud President Kelvin A. Jeremiah and the Philadelphia Housing Authority for reaching an agreement that enables a $52 million mixed-use development that is urgently needed by the North Philadelphia community to move forward,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke, whose 5th District includes the site.

“The issues that City Council has spoken about all year – racial disparities magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of access to healthy foods, adequate health care and affordable housing – are all being addressed by this development,” Clarke said. “In addition, the developer of this site is a black-owned firm, who is committed to employing people from North Philadelphia to build this site and to work in the businesses that will open there. A supermarket, a bank for North Philadelphia, affordable housing units, an urgent care facility – can all now be built, thanks to this agreement announced by PHA today. This checks all the bases for what we need in North Philadelphia.”

At PHA’s virtual board meeting, on October 15th, PHA will ask the Board for authorization to establish the COVID-19 Homeless Relief Program. If approved by the Board, PHA will allocate 25 permanent housing opportunities for homeless families who are referred to PHA by qualified service provider(s). The referral is critical to ensure the individual will not only receive housing but also the necessary social service support to sustain their home. The housing opportunities canbe for public housing units or Housing Choice Voucher program. PHA will execute a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an appropriate service provider(s). This preference will expire on December 31, 2020.

This innovative, creative solution with the encampment leader meets both PHA’s and the encampment’s goal of creating pathways to sustainable permanent affordable housing for the underserved populations.