ALERT: Fight Anti-Homeless Ordinance in Philadelphia, PA FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 3 May 1998 05:47:58 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  CC Replies to Project HOME <>

   Posted March 12, 1998

   from Project HOME

I am contacting you to ask if you would help us with an urgent campaign
here in Philadelphia. As you may be aware, Philadelphia City Council will
soon consider an ordinance that would criminalize homelessness -- joining
the dozens of other cities that already have passed punitive laws against
homeless persons. We are in the middle of a very tough fight against this
ordinance, but there is a chance we can win it.

The Open Door Coalition, a group of homeless service providers and
advocates, is actively fighting the "Sidewalk Behavior" ordinance
(ordinance #970817). As I'm sure you can understand, we believe this
ordinance is an extremely counterproductive measure, which will only worsen
the situation both for homeless persons and for the broader community. In
addition to its effect on homeless persons, this ordinance threatens many
basic First Amendment rights, including distribution of leaflets and
rallying in public.

The ordinance has strong support in the business community. Fourteen of the
seventeen Council members originally signed on as co-sponsors of the
ordinance, though already one has changed her mind and others are
indicating serious concerns about the ordinance.

We would like some national organizations to support our efforts to defeat
this ordinance and keep Philadelphia from criminalizing homeless persons. I
am enclosing a copy of the position paper of The Open Door Coalition, as
well as a list of City Council addresses and phone numbers.

Ideally, we would love it if you could contact members of our City Council
about this ordinance and express your concerns as representatives of
national housing and homeless provider and advocate organization.

If you would like, please call me at 215-232-7272 to discuss what other
role you can take. Thank you so much for your assistance and for all your
efforts on behalf of low-income and homeless persons.


Will O'Brien
Director of Education and Advocacy
Project H.O.M.E.
1515 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia PA 19130
PH: (215) 232-7272
FAX: (215) 232-7277



       No to Criminalizing Homeless Persons

       Yes to Solving Homelessness

A statement from the Open Door Coalition

This spring, Philadelphia City Council will consider a "Sidewalk Control"
ordinance which is designed to address various "quality of life" issues,
particularly in Center City. Much of the ordinance is specifically
concerned with the presence of homeless persons on the streets of Center

We are deeply concerned that this ordinance is inhumane and
counterproductive. Specifically, we believe this ordinance will have the
following negative consequences:

       This ordinance criminalizes people who are homeless. A homeless
person who is found guilty of violating provisions of the ordinance and who
is unable to pay the penalty would be ineligible for public benefits,
including medical and housing assistance. The ordinance only adds a greater
burden for persons trying to break the cycle of homelessness.

       This ordinance could create an atmosphere that leads to abuses
against persons on the streets and lack of accountability. We already know
that, even without the ordinance, there have been recent cases of police
activity against homeless persons that are abusive and extreme.

       Implementation and enforcement of this ordinance would entail
excessive costs for the City, through policing, court proceedings, and
further overcrowding of prisons -- money that would better be used for
services and programs for homeless persons.

       A probable outcome of this ordinance is that many homeless persons
will simply move out of Center City into nearby neighborhoods, which only
shifts the problem elsewhere without providing real solutions.

Most importantly, we believe this ordinance distracts us from the crucial
task of addressing the root causes of homelessness. The resources that
would go toward implementing this ordinance are better spent on services
and programs that make a real difference.

Solutions to homelessness exist. In recent years, when the appropriate
resources are in place, outreach teams and services providers have
developed a track record of success in moving people off the streets and
into appropriate housing with treatment and services. We recommend the
following alternative responses to the situation of homeless persons in
Center City:

       The City must not impose restrictions on shelter admission during
the summer months. All persons who are eligible should be able to access
shelter year-round.

       Expand targeted outreach efforts to persons on the streets with
mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

       Develop the appropriate housing resources for persons on the streets
with special needs, including "safe haven" entry-level residences with
treatment and supportive services, and permanent supportive housing with
education and employment opportunities.

       Develop a plan to discourage panhandling and foster a message of
recovery in Center City.

       Improve access to appropriate services for persons with mental
illness and substance abuse issues.

An ordinance that further punishes people already struggling with
homelessness, mental illness, or addiction will only exacerbate the
problem. Instead we offer constructive and proven alternatives that can
meet the needs of homeless persons and truly enhance the quality of life
for all of us.

We urge City Council to avoid short-sighted and counterproductive measures.
We urge the Mayor, City Council, the Center City community, and all
citizens of Philadelphia to join us in working together on effective and
humane long-range solutions that meet the needs of our homeless brothers
and sisters and enhance the quality of life for all of us.



All addresses are City Hall, Philadelphia PA 19106

- District 1: Frank DiCicco (D), Room 332, 686-3459
- District 2: Anna Cibotti Verna (D), Room 405, 686-3412
- District 3: Jannie L. Blackwell (D), Room 408, 686-3418
- District 4: Michael Nutter (D), Room 404, 686-3416
- District 5: John Street (D), Room 494, 686-3442
- District 6: Joan Krajewski (D), Room 591, 686-3444
- District 7: Richard Mariano (D), Room 599, 686-3448
- District 8: Donna Miller (D), Room 316, 686-3424
- District 9: Marian Tasco (D), Room 577, 686-3454
- District 10: Brian O'Neil (R), Room 562, 686-3422

At-large Representatives:

- Augusta A. Clark (D), Room 580, 686-3438
- David Cohen (D), Room 588, 686-3446
- Happy Fernandez (D), Room 484, 686-3414
- James Kenney (D), Room 330, 686-3450
- W. Thatcher Longstreth (R), Room 594, 686-3452
- Angel Ortiz (D), Room 590, 686-3420
- Frank Rizzo (R), Room 582-3440

NOTE: If you can only write a limited number of letters, please contact
Reps. Street, Clark, Fernandez, Nutter, and Miller. Thanks so much!

Project HOME

Date posted: Thu Mar 12 11:26:47 PST 1998

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