don't ban homeless, help with $10 million, says Phillie coalition

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 3 Jun 1998 12:18:31 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.phillynews.com:80/inquirer/98/Jun/03/city/HOME03.htm
FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer - June 3, 1998


  GROUPS FOR THE HOMELESS SEEK HELP FROM THE CITY
  THEY RALLIED NEAR CITY HALL.
  THE IMMEDIATE OCCASION WAS JOHN STREET'S BILL ON ``SIDEWALK BEHAVIOR.''

  By Cynthia Burton - Inquirer Staff Writer


Representatives of more than a dozen advocacy groups for the homeless
gathered at City Hall's Dilworth Plaza yesterday afternoon to ask the city
to help the homeless, not ban them from city streets and sidewalks. The
plea came on the eve of today's City Council hearing on a bill sponsored by
Council President John F. Street to regulate "sidewalk behavior." The
ordinance would ban sitting or lying on the sidewalk, panhandling near
banks and automatic teller machines, and the riding of bikes, scooters or
skateboards on sidewalks by anyone over age 6.

"Merely giving people citations is not going to achieve the results that we
believe the business community, the residents and all of us want," said
Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME, a shelter and
social service agency. "We want to be able to solve homelessness, not just
mask it or send it out to the parks, to the neighborhoods, or send people
to abandoned buildings."

Ann Murray, a lawyer with the Homeless Advocacy Project, said the ordinance
could criminalize homelessness because a person fined for violating the
ordinance could be held in contempt of court for not paying the fine or
failing to appear in court for a hearing. Ultimately, that person could be
denied welfare benefits under tough new welfare rules.

Street says there would be no criminal penalties for disobeying his
ordinance. That, however, has not swayed Councilman Angel Ortiz, one of
three Council members who refused to cosponsor Street's bill. At
yesterday's rally, he asked: "Have we no shame as a government that the
only way to deal with poor people is to try to harass them, coerce them [
or ] push them around because they don't have voices, because they are not
powerful, because they cannot contribute thousands of dollars to political
campaigns?"

The advocates, under the umbrella group called the Open Door Coalition,
want the city to lift shelter restrictions on behavior that keep up to 300
homeless people from spending a night at a shelter; open small shelters
that cater to such special needs as mental illness and alcohol or drug
abuse; and provide 1,000 new units of permanent housing, hooked into social
service programs, within four years.

Sister Scullion and others also said that many temporary shelters rushed
homeless people out during the day, leaving them to wander the streets. She
said they should be open to homeless people 24 hours a day and offer
educational and job-training programs, as well as counseling and permanent
housing.

The group also suggested that people who felt guilty about giving money to
homeless people could give them food vouchers instead. The vouchers could
also contain a list of drug-recovery and treatment facilities for homeless
people.

The Open Door Coalition said the project would cost at least $10 million,
which should come from city, state and federal funds.

Mayor Rendell's spokesman, Kevin Feeley, said the administration was
"generally supportive of the concept of trying to strike a balance between
the needs of homeless and the needs of the city business community and
those who have to do battle with folks cluttering our sidewalks."

But Feeley said the city likely could not afford to spend $10 million.

END FORWARD

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
ARCHIVES  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN
TO JOIN  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <wgcp@earthlink.net>