SAFE STREETS PHILLY - housing the homeless & keeping the peace
Join Safe-Streets-Philly Meetup
We can combine compassion with common sense. Government must provide shelter and services to those in need, but government must also protect the public's health, safety, and welfare.
This is what the children see, and wonder if it could happen
to them. Thumbnail photos of downtown Philadelphia (July/Aug 2019),
mostly in Center City, Convention Center, East Market Street, Washington Square,
Schuylkill River Park & Trail, Logan Circle, etc.
FOR SAFE STREETS:
- The public must speak up
- The city must provide safe housing & effective services for those in need
- The police must patrol routinely and enforce health, safety, and sanitation laws
- And lawyers should be looking at the city's current failure to fully enforce health, safety, and sanitation laws
In Philadelphia, as in other cities across this nation, people are living on the streets, over-nighting in the parks, passed out on the sidewalks, panhandling in front of stores and restaurants, blocking transit stops, disrupting traffic, and otherwise behaving in a manner that is in violation of health, safety, and sanitation laws. According to published reports, although some people are homeless due to economic circumstances, the overwhelming majority of this group are drug addicts, alcoholics, and those with severe mental disabilities.
This is a crisis in Center City, Kensington, and other parts of Philadelphia.
In Kensington there has been an alarming increase of Hepatitis A due to public exposure to human feces, among other causes. Historically, infectious diseases declined rapidly in the 1800 and 1900's due to improvements in sanitation and living conditions, well before the introduction of vaccines and toxic chemicals. Some cities are threatening homeless encampments with forced vaccinations and toxic sprays, which we believe would be unhealthy for all concerned. The homeless need appropriate housing and care based on their individual needs. And seemingly small matters, such as panhandling, disorderly conduct, and non-passengers occupying bus stops, must be prohibited.
Why is it important to enforce “quality of life” and “health, safety, and sanitation” laws? If one person can violate the law, one hundred thousand can. And then we have epidemics and anarchy. New York City learned that lesson in the 1990’s. There’s a great book written on the New York experience, as well as other situations that led to amazing changes, both good and bad. It’s called the “Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference”.
Federal court decisions that resulted in the de-institutionalization of the severely mentally ill in the 1970's, have contributed substantially to the crisis (see below), including many recent federal court decisions asserting that panhandling is protected under free speech. Other federal court's have claimed that homeless encampments are protected under the Constitution, if the government has provided no shelter - which is why it is so important that cities provide housing for the homeless.
According to the Office of Homeless Services (OHS), there are enough beds and services for these individuals in Philadelphia, but many have refused shelter, some claiming that the shelters are not safe and preferring to live on the streets. Unfortunately, the police and OHS, including Homeless Outreach & Project Home, are allowing these individuals to stay on the streets. The city is not committing the mentally ill for psychiatric & physical care, even when it is clear that these individuals are not able or willing to take care of themselves. See https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/055/chapter5100/s5100.84.html
Fundamentally, when it comes to this population, the Health Department, Streets Sanitation Department, HOS, L&I, and the police are not enforcing the laws governing health, safety, and sanitation - which appears to be a substantive dereliction of duty. For those who point to federal court cases, that have exacerbated this situation, we believe that the city has the 'right and responsibility' to enforce safe, health, and sanitation laws, which cannot be overcome by claims of free-speech rights, or the alleged right to sleep anywhere one wants. If the city has to go to court to re-assert their civic rights and responsibilities, then we fully support that course of action. Otherwise, it is time for private attorneys to sue the cites for failure to enforce health, safety, and sanitation laws.
We have spoken with many members of the business community, most of whom did not realize that they also have the 'right and responsibility' under Title 9-4400. Responsible Business Operations, to forbid "prohibited conduct" on their sidewalk and street (as defined in Title 10-600), which includes panhandling, laying on the sidewalk, etc.. The City needs to educate the business community about Titles 9 & 10. However, this also begs the question, "If the city police are not enforcing Title 10, how can the city expect businesses to comply with Title 9?"
Despite this apparent confusion, the public needs to speak up and contact Police District offices, the Mayor, and City Council members. In our experience, when the public complains long enough and loud enough, they get results. We have been meeting with Councilman Mark Squilla, representatives of the police (PPD), Streets Department, & Office of Homeless Services, as well as with local residents and businesses on these issues. To that end, we have experienced some success, but it will take a lot more effort from the public to improve life for all concerned.
Please join us at Safe-Streets-Philly Meetup
Lynn and Cliff Landes
Center City, Philadelphia
(As the parents of a mentally disabled adult, this issue is particularly meaningful for us, as we shudder to think that our son could end up on the streets due to the negligence of those in authority and the misplaced good intentions of others.)
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- JOIN "SAFE STREETS PHILLY" MEETUP to help organize, attend meetups, post your own meetups, and post comments.
- SPEAK AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS They need to hear your stories. Council meetings are every Thursday from Sept - June. Sign up to speak, under any bill number, because there is no "public comment" period, as such. You have 2 minutes to speak, so it pays to read from prepared remarks.
- EMAIL the Mayor and City Council to:
- Meet the need of housing for the homeless and both good quality short term and long-term facilities for the mentally ill and drug addicts
- Enforce the law against living on the streets, repeated panhandling, and other uncivil conduct under Title 10
- Increase street patrols and enforcement of health & safety regulations as defined under City Code Title 10
- Amend Title 10 to give the police more authority to enforce Title 10 in a timely manner (see below)
- Prohibit dumpsters, trash cans, and food waste containers that are accessible by the public, as they are magnets for health and safety issues
- Provide more public service announcements (PSAs) & education on the importance of laws regarding health, sanitation, & public conduct
CONTACT: Philadelphia Mayor Kinney James.Kenney@phila.gov
City Council group email: email@example.com;firstname.lastname@example.org;email@example.com;;Cherelle.Parker@phila.gov;
CALL 911, (who will contact Homeless Outreach) for those who are sleeping on the street and/or repeated panhandling, as well as drug addicts & mentally disabled who appear in need. By calling 911, a record is established that can be used by the Mayor and City Council in their decision-making process. If the issue is not resolved satisfactorily, the community police officers have said that you should then ask for the police 'supervisor'.
For your information: TITLE 10-600. PUBLIC PLACES – PROHIBITED CONDUCT (not the complete list)
- Disorderly conduct
- Interfering with traffic
- Unreasonable loitering
- Unauthorized dwellings
- Blocking street or sidewalk
- Sitting on sidewalk over one hour
- Lying down on sidewalk & benches
- Repeated or aggressive panhandling
- Leaving objects on sidewalks for over 15 minutes
- Non-passenger use of bus stops & transit terminals
PHILADELPHIA: Problems with Office Of Homeless Services (OHS) - In Philadelphia, it appears that The Office of Homeless Services (OHS) is in command of the over-all situation, including the public safety, health, and welfare. We believe that OHS, a social service agency, is not the appropriate agency to maintain public safety and order. Under OHS's watch, many severely mentally disabled persons are living on the streets, when they should be in a facility. No clean-up of a homeless encampment can take place without OHS approval. Yet, they are not cleaning up encampments in a timely manner, unless the public complains loudly and often. When OHS does order a cleanup, as in the case of encampment at Ludlow Street (between 10th and 11th Streets, near the Market Street entrance for the Convention Center), the public waited for more than 6 weeks for the cleanup, and then the encampment was partially rebuilt in less than 24 hours. To date, and despite public complaints, OHS has refused to remove and/or place into care the clearly mentally ill man who rebuilt his dwelling, nor clean up the mess, nor remove the new dwelling. (July 27, 2019) Update Aug 8 - Ludlow street has been cleaned-up again. Hopefully it will last this time. The mentally ill man moved to another location, so he continues to live on the street rather than get the care he deserves.
MORE ON CAUSES OF CURRENT CRISIS:
BRAIN DAMAGE FROM TOXIC EXPOSURES: A large part of mental illness has its roots in brain damage which can result in addictions and moderate to severe mental illness, including ADD/ADHD. Most people think of 'cancer' as the only result of exposure to toxins. However, toxins can also cause neurological damage to the brain. In the U.S., we are damaging our brains from chronic and acute toxic exposure from a wide range of sources, including: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, medicines, chemicals, heavy metals, radiation exposure, and industrial emissions. Many personal and household products, including children's toys and diapers, contain toxins. Those who have ADD/ADHD, may also suffer from a lack of impulse control, which can leave them much more vulnerable to addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.. There is abundant evidence that connects toxic exposure to brain damage, yet governments, on the federal, state, and local level, have consistently shown more concerned for private profits than public health.
DE-INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE MENTALLY DISABLED: https://www.thebalance.com/deinstitutionalization-3306067 De-institutionalization of the mentally ill, started in the 1950's and rapidly escalated in the following decades.: "As a result, 2.2 million of the severely mentally ill do not receive any psychiatric treatment at all. About 200,000 of those who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are homeless. That's one-third of the total homeless population. Ten percent are veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other war-related injuries. More than 300,000 are in jails and prisons. Sixteen percent of all inmates are severely mentally ill. There were about 100,000 psychiatric beds in both public and private hospitals. There are more than three times as many seriously mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in hospitals.
Deinstitutionalization successfully gave more rights to the mentally challenged. Many of those in mental hospitals lived in the backwater for decades. They received varying levels of care. It also changed the culture of treatment from "send them away" to integrate them into society where possible. It especially benefited those with Down's syndrome and other high-functioning mental disorders. Many of those released from institutions were severely mentally ill. They were not good candidates for community centers due to the nature of their illnesses. Long-term, in-patient care provides better treatment for many with severe mental illnesses. There wasn't enough federal funding for the mental health centers. That meant there weren't enough centers to serve those with mental health needs. It also made it difficult to create any comprehensive programs. Mental health professionals underestimated how difficult it was to coordinate community resources scattered throughout a city for those with disorders. The courts made it almost impossible to commit anyone against their will. That’s true regardless of whether it was for the person’s own safety and welfare or for that of others."
- 2018: Next Avenue - Should We Bring Back Public Psychiatric Hospitals?
- 2017: NPR - How The Loss Of U.S. Psychiatric Hospitals Led To A Mental Health Crisis
- 2016: KQED - Did the Emptying of Mental Hospitals Contribute to Homelessness?
- 1997: PBS - History of Deinstutionalization of the Mentally Ill
- 1984: NY Times: How Release of Mental Patients Began
PENNSYLVANIA CODE, § 5100.84. Persons who may be subject to involuntary emergency examination and treatment.
(a) Persons 14 through 17 years of age may be subject to involuntary emergency examination and treatment only in an approved mental health facility capable of providing a treatment program appropriate to the person. Persons 5 through 13 years of age may be subject to involuntary emergency examination and treatment only in an approved mental health facility capable of providing a treatment program appropriate to the child. Persons from birth through 4 years of age may be subject to involuntary emergency examination and treatment only in a mental health facility capable of providing a treatment program appropriate to the child. Should no such facility exist within the county of residence, the nearest appropriate facility shall be designated by the county administrator. Longer term involuntary treatment for the age groups listed in this section, must be conducted by agencies with age appropriate programs which are approved by the Department and designated by the county administrator when public monies are utilized for treatment.
(b) Persons 18 years of age and older may be subject to involuntary emergency examination at an approved facility designated for such purpose by the administrator. Involuntary emergency treatment may be provided at the examining facility or any other designated and approved facility appropriate to the person’s needs. Travel arrangements between the examining facility and the treating facility shall be arranged as needed as soon as possible to permit transportation appropriate to the person’s needs.
(c) The determination of whether the standards of clear and present danger are met should always include a consideration of the person’s probable behavior if adequate treatment is not provided on either an emergency or subsequent basis.
(d) The standards of clear and present danger may be met when a person has made a threat of harm to self or others; has made a threat to commit suicide; or has made a threat to commit an act of mutilation and has committed acts in furtherance of any such threats.
(e) Examining physicans should consider the probability that the person would be unable without care, supervision, and the continued assistance of others, to satisfy his need for nourishment, personal or medical care, shelter or self-protection, and safety in accordance with section 301(b)(2)(i) of the act (50 P. S. § 7301(b)(2)(i)).
(f) When the petition for commitment filed under section 301(b)(2)(i) alleges that a person poses a clear and present danger to himself, clinical or other testimony may be considered which demonstrates that the person’s judgment and insight is so severely impaired that he or she is engaging in uncontrollable behavior which is so grossly irrational or grossly inappropriate to the situation that such behavior prevents him from satisfying his need for reasonable nourishment, personal care, medical care, shelter or self-protection and safety, and that serious physical debilitation, serious bodily injury or death may occur within 30 days unless adequate treatment is provided on an involuntary basis.
(g) An attempt under sections 301(b)(2)(ii) and (iii) of the act (50 P. S. § 7301(b)(2)(ii) and (iii)), occurs:
(1) When a person clearly articulates or demonstrates an intention to commit suicide or mutilate himself and has committed an overt action in furtherance of the intended action; or
(2) When the person has actually performed such acts.
Notes of Decisions
Although the court did not charge the jury on these regulations which specify that a suicide attempt consists of an intent to commit suicide and an overt act in furtherance of the intended action, there was no error because 50 P. S. § 7301 fully and accurately conveyed the applicable law. Mertz v. Temple University Hospital, 25 Pa. D & C 4th 541 (Pa.) (1995).
The writing of suicide notes can be considered an overt act in furtherance of a suicide. Mertz v. Temple University Hospital, 25 Pa. D & C 4th 541 (Pa.) (1995).
A psychiatrist who discharged a patient brought to a hospital’s psychiatric emergency room for involuntary commitment under the Mental Health Procedures Act (50 P. S. § § 7101—7503), was held liable to three minors injured when the patient blew up a row house while committing suicide. Mertz v. Temple University Hospital, 25 Pa. D & C 4th 541 (Pa.) (1995).
TITLE 9-4400. RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS OPERATIONS: Under Title 9, businesses that allow prohibited conduct on the sidewalk or street, as defined under Title 10, can be forced to remediate the situation or be closed down. However, most businesses don't know about Title 9, and believe that they have no rights or responsibilities to forbid prohibited conduct on their sidewalk or street.
TITLE 10. REGULATION OF INDIVIDUAL CONDUCT AND ACTIVITY http://library.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Pennsylvania/philadelphia_pa/title10regulationofindividualconductanda/chapter10-600publicplaces-prohibitedcond?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:philadelphia_pa$anc=JD_Chapter10-600
TITLE 10-600. PUBLIC PLACES – PROHIBITED CONDUCT: (The police have their hands tied to a large extent by the District Attorney and enforcement measures in Title 10.)
SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS: ADD or STRIKE
(a) Except as set forth in § 10-611(7)(e), no law enforcement officer shall issue a notice of violation or take any coercive action against any person in violation of this Section, unless, prior to issuing such notice or taking such action, the officer or his or her designated representative: 135
(.1) With respect to violations of subsections (2)(g), (h), (l) or (m), relating to lying, sitting, obstructing, or leaving objects unattended, or (4)(b) or (c), relating to soliciting near a building entrance or bank, first issues an oral warning to the person or persons in violation, and then, if the person or persons refuse to comply five minutes after receiving an oral warning, issues a written warning to the person or persons in violation. The written warning shall be printed in English and Spanish. If the person or persons refuse again to comply, the officer shall issue another violation and take appropriate coercive action.
(.2) With respect to violations of subsections (2)(g), (h), (l) or (m), or (4), attempts to ascertain whether the person is in need of medical assistance or social service assistance, including but not limited to mental health treatment, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, or homeless assistance services; and, if the officer determines that the person may be in need of social service assistance, the officer contacts an Outreach Team, who, if available, shall come to the officer's location, evaluate the person's needs, and together with the officer take all reasonable steps toward directing the person to the appropriate service provider, including but not limited to offering transportation to such provider. If the officer's reasonable efforts to direct the person to needed social services are unsuccessful, the officer may issue a notice of violation or take appropriate coercive action, after the required notice is given, subject to compliance with subsections (.a), (.b) and (.c), below.
(.a) In attempting to ascertain whether social service assistance is needed, the officer or his or her designated representative shall:
(i) Whenever the officer has reason to believe the person may be in need of social service assistance, call upon an Outreach Team, if available, to evaluate the person's needs.
(ii) Shall not take any coercive action, including but not limited to compelling a person to reveal any confidential information concerning treatment or mental health status.
(.b) No law enforcement officer shall attempt to forcibly remove any person from the public sidewalk for violation of subsections (2)(g), (h), (l) or (m), or (4) without first contacting the Outreach Team (strike: “without the presence of an Outreach Team”), whenever the officer determines that the person may be in need of mental health or other social service assistance, and without first making all reasonable efforts to place the person voluntarily in an appropriate social service facility or treatment facility and the availability of an appropriate residential facility with appropriate treatment strategies for the client's needs.
(.c) If the law enforcement officer, in consultation with the Mental Health Officer, determines that the person, because of his or her mental health status or otherwise, presents a danger to himself or herself or to others, the law enforcement officer shall take such steps as are authorized under the Mental Health Procedures Act, Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 817, as amended, including, if necessary, the initiation of involuntary commitment proceedings.
(b) The Police Department shall take all necessary and appropriate steps to insure that law enforcement officers who are likely to come into contact with persons in violation of subsections (2)(b), (g), (h), (l) or (m), or (4) shall receive all appropriate training in approaching, investigating and assisting persons in need of mental health treatment or other social service assistance.
(c) Violations of subsection (2)(a), relating to parking vehicles on the sidewalk, shall be enforced in accordance with the provisions set forth in Chapter 12-2800.
(d) For purposes of this Section, an Outreach Team shall mean a group of mental health or drug and alcohol counselors authorized and designated by the Department of Public Health to provide access to residential treatment for homeless persons with mental health diagnoses and/or drug and alcohol complications.
(e) The provisions of § 10-611(7)(a) shall not apply to disorderly conduct in violation of 18 Pa. C.S. § 5503. 137
(8) Penalties. A person found in violation of this Section shall be subject to penalty, as follows:
(a) For a violation of subsections (2)(a), relating to parking a motorized vehicle on the sidewalk; (2)(b), relating to gambling on the sidewalk; (2)(g), relating to lying on the sidewalk; (2)(d), relating to riding a scooter, roller skates or skateboard on the sidewalk; (2)(h), relating to sitting 138 on the sidewalk; (2)(l), relating to unreasonable obstructions on the sidewalk; and (2)(m), relating to unattended belongings on the sidewalk, a fine of twenty (20) dollars. 139
(b) For a violation of subsections (4)(a), (b) and (c), relating to aggressive solicitation, a fine of not more than one hundred (100) dollars.
(c) For a violation of subsections (2)(i), relating to the sale of goods or services, or solicitation of funds, on the highway; (2)(j), relating to displaying for sale objectionable material; (2)(n), relating to unrestrained animals on the sidewalk; (5)(b), relating to littering on the sidewalk; (6)(a), relating to owner/occupier of private property keeping the sidewalk clear of litter and obstructions; and (6)(c), relating to owner of take-out restaurants care of trash receptacles on the sidewalk, a minimum fine of one hundred (100) dollars and no more than three hundred (300) dollars.
(d) For a violation of subsections (2)(e), relating to loading or unloading a commercial vehicle on the sidewalk; (2)(f), relating to unlicensed sale of goods or services on the sidewalk; (2)(k), relating to unlicensed placement of any bench, planter, fixture or street furniture on the sidewalk; (5)(a), relating to honor boxes on the sidewalk without a permit; and (6)(b), relating to owner/occupier of private property keeping the sidewalk in good repair, a fine of not more than three hundred (300) dollars. 140
(e) For a violation of subsection (5)(c), relating to excessive noise on the sidewalk, fines as follows:
(.1) for the first violation, a fine of not less than twenty-five (25) dollars and not more than three hundred (300) dollars;
(.2) for the second violation, a fine of not less than one hundred (100) dollars and not more than three hundred (300) dollars; and
(.3) for the third and subsequent violations, fines of not less than three hundred (300) dollars.
(f) Each day a violation of this Section continues shall constitute a separate violation.
(g) In all cases, the court, in its discretion, may suspend the fine upon agreement by the offender to perform such community service or to participate in such social service assistance program or rehabilitation program as the City recommends and the court deems appropriate. No person shall be imprisoned for violating this Section or for failing to pay a fine for violating this Section.
(h) For a violation of subsection (2)(b), relating to gambling on the sidewalk, the penalty shall be that contained in Section 10-612. 141
(i) For a violation of subsection (2)(c), relating to bicycles on the sidewalk, the penalty shall be that contained in Section 12-808. 142
(9) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Section, nothing in this Section shall apply in the Third Councilmanic District, except for the area bounded by the Schuylkill River on the East running West on Spring Garden street to Fortieth street, then South to Market street, then West to Fifty-second street, then South to Woodland avenue, then East to University avenue, then South to the Schuylkill River, which area shall be subject to all provisions of this Section, including, but not limited to, subsection 10-611(1)(a), relating to provisions applying citywide, and subsection 10-611(1)(b), relating to provisions applying in designated zones. 143
Contact: Lynn and Cliff Landes / LynnLandes@gmail.com / www.LynnLandes.com / Center City Philadelphia