Wednesday, October 14, 2020 1:13 PM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — City officials have reached an agreement that will close a homeless encampment that has occupied the Benjamin Franklin Parkway since June 10 by the end of the week.
Under terms of the deal announced Tuesday night, an estimated 150 people have agreed to leave their tents. In return, the city and the Philadelphia Housing Authority will transfer 50 properties to a land trust established by the encampment residents.
The city also will move forward to develop housing that will include self-contained units or provide units with communal kitchens and bathrooms by the end of the year.
Mayor Jim Kenney thanked camp leaders and residents for “elevating Philadelphia's affordable housing crisis in the public eye.”
Organizers said the encampment was tied to the Black Lives Matter movement and demanded equal access to fair, safe and affordable housing. Philadelphia Housing Action, which organized the encampment, said it was conceived as a form of political protest over homeless policies and the lack of low-income housing.
“The whole point of our protest was to make sure everybody had a house. And we while we didn’t get everything we wanted, we did get a commitment for a significant number of housing units for a community land trust from the city and PHA and expanded options for camp residents,” said camp organizer Sterling Johnson in a statement.
The encampment's residents received donations of food, water and other items when they pitched their tents. However, nearby residents also raised concerns about trash, violence and harassment.
“The residents of these neighborhoods have the right to live in peace and safety, and this agreement helps preserve that right,” said City Council President Darrell Clarke.
Occupants of another encampment last week accepted aid such as transitional housing in COVID-19 spaces in hotels, or residential treatment, recovery homes and shelters.