PHOTO ABOVE: Holiday Home: Paul Nowell and his family stand in front of the newly renovated home at 2903 Westmont Street. The family, who lived with various family members and friends, planned to move in on Tuesday afternoon. They will bring a small Christmas tree that they have just bought for their son.
PHA fulfills its commitment to work with the camp leader on a pilot housing program
The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) honored its commitment to the leader of the homelessness camp last year and today welcomed the first families to their newly rehabilitated homes in North Philadelphia.
The move into these formerly vacant long-term properties is the culmination of over a year of effort.
As part of the agreement to end the settlement near PHA’s head office in the Sharswood neighborhood, PHA implemented a pilot program to facilitate the creation of a community land trust, a type of organization to nonprofit designed to provide community control of land and permanent affordable housing.
The Philadelphia Community Land Trust (PCLT) was founded by protest organizer Jennifer Bennetch and approved by the city in November.
“The goal of this effort was to give camp leaders the opportunity to establish the land trust and build the organization’s capacity to effectively manage and maintain affordable units over time,” said the President and CEO of PHA, Kelvin A. Jeremiah. âNone of this would have been possible without our union and municipal partners and the commitment of Ms. Bennetch and her team to establishing an entity that serves others.
âThese new homes are a testament to the vision and dedication of our partners, who have helped us reinvent housing solutions in Philadelphia. Today we see – and celebrate – what this means for our city. This means the stability and security of long-term affordable housing, transformed properties and neighborhoods, and a boost to our local efforts to address the national housing crisis. The city remains committed to the work ahead and our continued collaboration with PHA and PCLT to support housing for Philadelphians in need, âsaid Tumar Alexander, City of Philadelphia CEO.
âI’m really excited to finally move forward with this community land trust,â Bennetch said. âIt took a lot of hard work and a lot of ups and downs with PLHIV and myself, a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy, but we were successful and I really appreciate this opportunity for myself and for the families and homeless people. “
Under the agreement, PHA has committed to making substantial renovations and transferring a collection of nine long-term vacant properties on Westmont Street in North Philadelphia to the Land Trust.
Construction workers from the labor unions, carpenters, roofers, plumbers, steam fitters, plasterers, painters and masons donated their time worth $ 200,000 to help renovate the first two houses, which have now transferred to the PCLT. properties has been delayed until the entity is established and the necessary insurances are in place.
The cost of renovating seven of the nine properties was approximately $ 150,000 per house in addition to free union labor on the first two houses. PCLT will be responsible for the renovation of the last two houses. PHA has also identified 25 additional long-term vacant dwellings that it intends to transfer to the PCLT to be refurbished by the organization for other former camp members and homeless families.
At the time of the agreement, the encampment prevented the construction of a commercial and residential complex on Ridge Avenue, including a supermarket. PHA was able to find an amicable and voluntary resolution so that the $ 52 million project could go ahead. The complex is currently under construction with completion scheduled for spring 2022.
PHA has worked closely with Bennetch, offering him online courses in nonprofit certification and property management.
PHA began its efforts on behalf of camp residents last October, as the agency’s Workforce Center engaged with them. Each participant was offered registration to the workforce and support services. These services were provided daily both in person and over the phone at PHA’s Vaux Community Building in Sharswood.
Each participant received an individual assessment with a social worker, and Project HOME provided in-depth support services and referrals to various partners to help them overcome their obstacles. Nearly 20 camp participants took advantage of the support sessions.
In addition to PHA support services, Jefferson University’s occupational therapy department provided group and individual therapy services. Temple University provided educational assessments to determine individuals’ current reading and math levels.
Temple offered reading and math lessons as well as GED services to each participant. The HOME project also offered housing possibilities to the residents of the camp.
One of the first residents to move into her newly renovated home is former homeless camp resident Jannie Mitchell. She remarked that this new place of life means the world to her.
âI am grateful and blessed to finally have affordable housing after three years,â she said. âNot only does this give me hope, but it will also be the place where I and my children can be reunited. Finally, we have a home.
PHA continues to work closely with Jennifer Bennetch and her Philadelphia Community Land Trust on the remaining commitments.
âAs I always say, there is an affordable housing crisis in Philadelphia and across the country. No single entity can solve this thorny problem on its own. It will take innovative solutions to solve the problem.
In this case, the route taken is not what we would have expected, but I am happy that we were able to continue to open more doors of opportunity, âsaid Jeremiah.