Protestors camped on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway are raising vital issues about safety and dignity for people experiencing homelessness, and are worried that the Mayor’s office is considering action to disperse the protest. The Center for Public Health Law Research has organized an open letter emphasizing the importance of crafting a peaceful, thoughtful and human way forward. More than 20 housing and health experts, advocates, and members of Pennsylvania state government have now signed the letter.
The letter to Mayor Jim Kenney urges against dispersing the protest, which would scatter Philadelphians experiencing homelessness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against clearing encampments during the COVID-19 crisis if individual housing options are not available. People without a safe, sanitary place to live cannot protect themselves or others during this ongoing pandemic.
It also urges the City to use this opportunity to not only provide safe, sanitary temporary housing for Philadelphians who are experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, but also to assure that these individuals be placed in permanent housing once they exit those facilities.
“Homelessness is a public health problem, and throughout this pandemic, it has become more and more clear how dangerous it can be to experience homelessness during a pandemic,” said Scott Burris, JD, director of the Center for Public Law Research at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. “At this time when many Americans are asking for fundamental changes in public management, we appreciate the ongoing work occurring in the City to address the concerns of homelessness, and hope that the City and protesters can work together to end homelessness in Philadelphia.”