What to do with Parkway homeless

Remember Rachel Canning?

She was the New Jersey 18-year-old who moved out of her parents home in 2014, then sued them for $654 a week in expenses, and demanded they pay her private high school and college tuition. She did not win.

Homeless encampment along Parkway (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

Rachel came to mind as I read the demands of Occupy PHA, which seems to be a lead group for the homeless encampment of more than 100 people that has sprouted on the Parkway, at 22nd Street. (PHA is the Philadelphia Housing Authority.)

The encampment looks a bit like the recreational area of a national park, dominated by colorful tents that look like mushrooms in a field. I visited Sunday afternoon and found few people “at home,” and none who wanted to talk to me, using their names.

Let’s agree that it is a shame that anyone should be homeless and being homeless should not be a crime. Let’s also agree that some bring it on themselves by bad behavior, such as drug or alcohol abuse, while others are victims of the bad economy, or bad bosses, or bad luck.

The Parkway homeless need help, but have rejected aid from Sister Mary Scullion’s Project Home.  Are they likely to achieve it with these demands, taken from the Occupy PHA website? (The demands have been edited down. My responses are in italic.)

1- City-owned vacant land should be transferred to a permanent community land trust for low-income housing.

Not a bad idea, except — where do you get the money to build the housing on the free land?

2- City must put a moratorium on buying or selling PHA property until all people on PHA waiting lists have been housed and pending a study on the effects of sales. 

Sorry, that would tie the hands of PHA, which exists to provide low-income housing. 

3- City must fire all employees who do not treat us with dignity. You must stop cops from kicking people awake every morning.

That is reasonable.

Some homeless people chatting in encampment (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

4- City must repeal all camping ordinances and rules within city limits.

No, you have no right to set up tents anywhere you please.

Homeless want to prohibit police (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

5- The encampment is a “no police zone” and the city will authorize other spaces across the city that we choose and will be self-governing and  self-funded.

Read my lips: N-O. There will be no “no police zones” anywhere in the city. 

6- City must immediately stop all activities that harass unhoused people.

The city will continue to enforce the law, as well as safety and sanitary conditions.

7- City must support Tiny Houses (not funded by capitalism) that are self-governed and self-funded by unhoused people. (Tiny Houses are one-room houses.)

Sorry to be crass, but where’s your “self-funding” coming from?

The city’s response to the demands? 

I emailed the mayor’s press office. Maybe they closed early for the new Juneteeth holiday.

Fortunately, the Occupy people said on its Facebook page that Mike Dunn, a mayoral mouthpiece, said the “campers” refused city outreach workers. KYW NewsRadio said the mayor’s office was planning no action at this time.

“No action” is Mayor Jim Kenney’s default, followed by “wrong action” once we are in crisis. The mayor is AWOL.

We are a nation of laws, and those shield us from chaos. People or groups, no matter how well-intended, have no “right” to “occupy” public land. They do have a right to peaceful protest. The city has the right to determine where that can be.

So, no — you will not stay on the Parkway.

Low-cost quonset huts

The city could offer a temporary campsite in a corner of Fairmount Park. With cold weather a few months away, the city could build quonset huts for shelter, complete with heat, fans, running water and toilets. City unions could be recruited to do the work at “friend and family” rates.

This would be a stopgap to allow time for my longer-range plan, previously mentioned in StuBykofsky.com

Back in January, I suggested abandoned city school buildings could be rehabbed into homeless shelters, and perhaps evolve into permanent apartments for the homeless. Other city-owned properties also could be used, along with city-owned land that is sitting empty. 

The homeless would have a permanent address, which creates stability in their lives and helps them get jobs, because one goal of what we do should be self-sufficiency.

But like the New Jersey teen learned, moral blackmail doesn’t work. 

At least it shouldn’t. 

24 thoughts on “What to do with Parkway homeless”

  1. Stu:
    We have formed a modular coalition of factories in PA and across the US to deploy rapid housing solutions for affordable and supportive housing communities. We are working through the red tape with reasonable and forward thinking leaders at the PHA, HUD, and other agencies nationwide.
    We can address this problem if/when leadership allows for a new way of thinking. You can come to your own conclusion about how long that may take. Email me if you would like details on our modular rapid housing solutions.
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Stu

    This problem no longer exists. After the Rizzo Statue was removed these people folded their tents and left. Ha Ha

  3. I supposedly can get 250k for our house. I hope that’s true. At the rate things are going in this city, all things considered, I either sell now or get bupkes.

      1. you can’t have it both ways. Follow all laws to the best of your ability.
        Zoning and code violations immediately come to mind.
        Stick with your January plan

  4. Agree with everything you said here. Homelessness is not a crime and shouldn’t be treated as such. My heart goes out to those who are homeless because of the economy or bad luck. I’m not so sympathetic to those who brought homelessness on themselves through their own disastrous choices. I am especially unsympathetic to those who refuse the help of outreach workers. Nobody should be treated in an inhumane way. But demands (and they are demands) such as the Occupy PHA people are making of the city that is bleeding money and continues to bleed money, are absurd and reek of entitlement and wishful thinking. The pendulum has swung too far and I suspect we will be in for a “correction.” I predict that the sudden plethora of wokeful will quickly plummet as gainfully employed people see their taxes soar, their property values diminish, the and their jobs evaporate if they stay in the city. There’s nothing like getting hit in the pocketbook to rudely awaken one’s self interest.

  5. As usual, I focus on words and their meaning. In the case of the Left, it prefers to use words that are undefinable (or that the Left chooses to not define). Example: “We want affordable housing.” Uh huh. Define affordable — what price range? “We demand a living wage.” Sounds good, now tell us what that means or give us a number. “We demand smaller class sizes.” Okay, give us a number. How many kids max?
    “We demand affordable health care.” Please define affordable — by whom and how much? I get the same itchy feeling reading the Homeless Manifesto: “We want to be treated with dignity.” Okay, you mean the police can’t order you to stop having bowel movements on the sidewalks, or peeing against the lampposts? “Stop harassing unhoused (love that word) people.” By harassing, you mean stop you from building fires, hassling and threatening passers-by with incessant begging, and… well, you get it. And I suggest that cops do not ‘kick’ people awake; I suspect they prod them with their feet because no cop wants to touch an ‘unhoused’ person sleeping in a tent, who hasn’t bathed in months and who has God-only-knows how many diseases and small critters living on his or her body. It’s pure self-protection. What the hell do we have a government for? What the hell do we pay grinding taxes for? (I hate dangling prepositions; forgive me.) They’re paid to solve these problems? The police should kick the governments awake, get their off their fat, pampered asses and work on solving this problem — or at least addressing it.

  6. I immediately think of Thomas Paine who the plaza in front of the MSB was named after and once stood the statue of Frank nightstick Rizzo. Paine stated: ” Until every citizen has a roof over their head, a job, and food on the table we are not a democracy.” George Carlin, we declare war on everything: war on drugs, war on poverty, war on crime, war on cancer. But there is no money to be made on homelessness so they should have their own magazine and be placed on golf courses where a meaningless, mindless game is played by mostly well to do white males. It was not too long ago that the Government had a great unused surplus of RV’s unused by FEMA which could be an immediate answer to their plight. What cant be accomplished is to ignore the underlying problems as to why the majority are part of this takeover of open public land. To stand back and allow them to place a tent on a parkway and immediately recognize their right to do so and keep hands off is to allow any group the same opportunity to just place a flag on private property and ignore the rule of law. Sadly as Carlin also stated the symbol NIMBY (not in my back yard) carries the denial of any location where homeowners live. We elect officials whose job is to respond to problems quickly with compassion and respect but should never have any group ignore the rights of the majority.

    1. Tom,
      FYI; FEMA does not own much of anything. Like most government agencies, they have contracts with various suppliers and vendors. FEMA can order out a thousand RVs, and they’ll be there starting the next day.
      The famous cry,” where are we going to put them”, can be answered by STu’s blog from 1/10/20.

    Back on January 10, you wrote an excellent blog that went right to the heart of the problem AND offered workable solutions. You Go, Kid ! Sorry to say, things haven’t changed. The deaf ears of our local, state and federal government, are doing what they do best. N O T H I N G !
    First; Tiny Houses: Nice idea, a band aide fix and not “code complient”. Elvis Summers ( 2016 ) did a magnificent non code complient project. Typical political bull, L.A. blew a lot of money not even coming close to solving their “homeless problem” !
    Forget about temporary housing. Pick a few quick projects that would be operational in the same amount of time.
    Here in Philly, you said ( my words ) use existing buildings. Give a hand up – not a hand out. Get off the drugs, clean up yourself, gain some respect ! Vince Benedict and myself had a lot to offer in support of your idea. AS usual, it fell on deaf ears.
    keep hammering away, pallie

    1. Elvis Summers has the solution. It is not a band aid fix.

      RVs are ridiculous.Cost more than $1200.

      They should be kpt for next natural catstrophe.

      I was never ric,but I loved playing on FDR golf course till our moronic mayor shut it down.

      1. I have to disagree with you Charles. Yea, it’s great to get the homeless off the street. Go back and read Stu’s blog on 1/10. You get an old school, e.g., that can be “flipped” in a quick turn-a-round. Dormitory style living. First floor has to be accessible ( code ), elevator ( code ) Maybe 25 rooms per floor ?
        Temporary housing is a quick fix that can not withstand the elements, plus a short life cycle. Modular housing ( converted shipping containers ala Israel. Spend the money once – Wisely- on re-purposing old buildings.

        1. I can see yoo did not view the tapes about Elvis.

          Didn’t you learn anything about wharehousing poor human beings like the old high rise projects did.

          1. Charles,
            actually, I did. ? Dec. 2016 ? I can’t compare L.A. to Philly.
            again, Charles. any idea at this point is a good idea. I just don’t like throwing good on top of bad ! POLITICS SUCK !
            This problem could have/should have been taken care of a long time ago, before it became a problem, rather than let it fester.
            Fact check. There’s more money to be made from the ghetto. Doesn’t matter the race. Hold the people down. Charge them high for everything that WE eventually pay for. Offer them low paying jobs that you wouldn’t leave your house for.
            Go back and read through Stu’s blogs. He always has a current topic on this site.

      2. Charles,
        I thought about being rich, but it required too much work. So I decided on being a”thousand-aire”.

      1. Stu,
        I think that government employees invented the “delete”key !
        As I say about PWD. ” leave me alone, I’m playing solitaire, or e-bay, or porn, or anything but work !

  8. Can’t we ask each bleeding-heart liberal in the city to take one homeless person home with them, to feed, clothe, educate, and turn into a model citizen? Philadelphia is 90% liberals, so there should be enough caring, nurturing, warmhearted, loving, people to solve the problem overnight. Yeah, right.

  9. still HAPPY THURSDAY !!!
    here we go with that band aid that everyone wants ! On the FOX news website, a Federal Judge has ordered L.A. county to provide housing for 6,000 homeless within 10 months and another 700 people over 18 months.
    It’s better than nothing, and it’s just a bit above nothing at 300 mill ! ( over 5 years ). Homeless population as of January is 64,400. and nobody saw this coming.
    FYI: don’t know if it still happens, BUT, Montgomery County would catch the homeless near city line ave. Give them a couple bucks and a ride into Philly. “Don’t come back or else we’ll lock you up ”
    just say’n’,

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