Family Faces Eviction By Agency Meant To Help Them
Above photo: Activist Cheri Honkala at the homeless encampment at 22nd and Ben Franklin Parkway. Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philadelphia, PA – Imagine being a parent, hustling “gig economy” jobs, without a home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Jasmine and Ariel, this has been the reality since May. They are a couple in their 30s, both with children from previous relationships, and navigating the minefields of poverty and pandemic. They had an apartment, but when Jasmine missed a check-in with her probation officer, she was sent to prison, leaving Ariel with no way to pay the rent and without a home.
According to a recent study conducted by geographers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are 10 abandoned properties for every 1 homeless person in Philadelphia. Many of these homes are abandoned by the very agency meant to help people like Jasmine and Ariel, and all the families in takeover houses: the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Because they wanted to do right by their children, Jasmine and Ariel avoided the Covid-infested shelter system. With help, they found and moved into an abandoned HUD property in relatively good condition. While the house wasn’t perfect, they had help fixing up the house, and finally had heat, water, and a place to comfortably lay their heads.
Despite not harming anyone, on December 30 the couple found a note from HUD, via the management corporation https://BlmCo.com/, threatening to call the police within 24 hours and evict them because HUD and BLMCo “have to manage and prepare this property for sale.” While many families would give up, Jasmine and Ariel are part of the Poor People’s Army.
Poor People’s Army / Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) has been combating the housing crisis for 30 years across the country through actions such as takeovers of abandoned properties, legal advocacy, tent cities, and occupations of government offices. They have a network of people, much like a “new underground railroad,” they activate when needed for sheltering or moving people, advocating, or nonviolently disobeying unjust laws.
“We intend to defend these families with nonviolent civil disobedience and protect their human right to housing,” said Cheri Honkala, of Poor People’s Army and PPEHRC. In a joint statement with Poor People’s Army, Nadera Hood, a formerly homeless mother and founder of Occupy PHA, said, “Occupy PHA and Philadelphia Housing Action, along with myself personally, stand in solidarity with this action and all people’s rights to seek shelter in vacant properties that would otherwise sit as blight then be sold off as profit to run people in the neighborhood out.” (video here: https://fb.watch/2IOw-vkxBf/)
The families in takeover houses are working to improve these properties and are residents with rights, and cannot be removed without court orders. HUD properties are federal property and Philadelphia Police do not have jurisdiction. This is a moral crisis, a human rights crisis, and public health crisis.
– Support all the families in takeover houses– Donate $10 to PPEHRC, which will be used for legal advocacy and backup shelter: cashapp $PoorPeoplesArmy or venmo @Cherihonkalappehrc or use a credit card via: https://poorpeoplesarmy.com/
– Stand with Jasmine & Ariel, & all families in takeover houses– sign the “Housing is a Human Right Petition” here: https://actionnetwork.org/