[Hpn] JAILED PROTESTERS seek vouchers for Homeless Squatters in Philadelphia PA USA fw Philadelphia PA USA fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Fri, 1 Dec 2000 08:44:45 -0800 (PST)

KWRU CONTACT INFO follows the article forwarded below:

FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer - Friday, December 1, 2000


     Seven were jailed after a "living room" sit-in, supporting
     squatter families evicted from abandoned buildings.

     By Julie Stoiber

Police arrested seven members of the Kensington Welfare Rights
Union yesterday after the activists set up a makeshift living room,
complete with Christmas tree, in a concourse inside the Convention
Center and demanded emergency housing vouchers for homeless

Veteran protester Cheri Honkala, head of the group, said the peaceful
demonstration was prompted by recent evictions of homeless families
who had taken over abandoned houses in the city with the group's

"All we want is seven vouchers for anyplace that's safe and warm
and where the families can stay together," Honkala said.

Honkala said the houses where the evictions took place were owned
by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

William Apgar, commissioner of the Federal Housing
Administration, said that when HUD encounters a homeless family in
one of its houses, the agency tries to help the family find permanent

"This squatting, although understandable, is not going to be the
solution," he said. "On the other hand, we just don't go around
 randomly evicting these families."

Louis Souder, of the city's Office of Emergency Shelter and
Services, was rebuffed when he approached Honkala and said the
city would help the homeless families if they met the agency's

"He said the magic words, 'if you meet the criteria,' " Honkala told
about 30 fellow demonstrators. "It's a fake offer."

Michael Nardone, deputy managing director for special-needs
housing, said the city was amenable to helping the homeless families.

"We're willing to work with them, but some sort of assessment has
to go on," he said. "We've worked with families that Miss Honkala
has brought to our attention in the past, and we are willing to do so in
the future."

As plainclothes officers from the Philadelphia Police Department's
Civil Affairs Unit watched, the protesters spent the morning singing,
talking, and milling around their "living room," which consisted of a
tattered couch, a clothes tree, and a dresser with a lamp - items that
protesters sneaked in through side entrances.

Set up outside an empty exhibit hall, the demonstration drew almost
no attention from people scattered around the building. Honkala said
the group chose the Convention Center because "it's warm and
there's a bathroom."

Among the protesters was Carmelo Parrilla, 38, who said he and his
7-year-old son lost their apartment after he had a heart attack a month
ago and had to stop working.

"I need a place for me and my son," said Parrilla, who worked at a
New Jersey recycling center before his heart attack. Honkala said one
of the vouchers she was requesting was for Parrilla.

At 1 p.m., four hours after the protest began, Capt. William Fisher,
head of the Civil Affairs Unit, warned the demonstrators they would
be arrested if they did not leave the building by 1:30 p.m.

At a prearranged signal, most of the protesters, including children,
filed outside, while Honkala and six others stayed behind to be
cuffed and taken to Central Detectives, where Fisher said they would
likely be charged with defiant trespass, a misdemeanor.

Honkala said the welfare-rights group would continue its "Homes for
the Holidays" campaign in other public spaces.

"Maybe we'll be moving everybody into the mayor's office next,"
she said.


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Kensington Welfare Rights Union
PO Box 50678
Philadelphia, PA 19132-9720
Phone: 215/203-1945
Fax:   215/203-1950
email: <kwru@libertynet.org>
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