SAFE STREETS PHILLY - housing the homeless & keeping the peace
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"City Council Comments" (please join in. send us your comments to city council and we will post them)
OCTOBER 17, 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0bB-X1HznY (forward to 1:10:09)
My name is Lynn Landes of SafeStreetsPhilly.org. I’m here to speak in support of Bill 190640. Just as we have 4-way stop signs to enhance pedestrian safety, we also have Title 10 to deter "prohibited conduct".
My husband and I were walking to the Reading Terminal Market last week when we came across a woman in her sixties sitting like a 2-year-old on a busy sidewalk at the corner of 12th and Market Streets. A Homeless Outreach Team was talking to her, but she refused their offer of assistance. So, they walked away. We approached the Team and asked if they were simply going to leave her there in the middle of the sidewalk. And they said yes, that it was her constitutional right to be there.
Actually, it isn’t. No court anywhere has ruled that people have the unfettered right to sit on the sidewalk, sleep on the street, or panhandle. All of these activities are conditional and can be regulated, and are regulated locally under Philadelphia Code Title 10. That said, for the most part these laws are not being enforced. It shuld be noted that federal court decisions supporting ‘panhandling as free speech’, have not been challenged to the Supreme Court, which could take a much different view of the matter.
Most of the time, the homeless and panhandlers will leave an area willingly, but more and more often, they will not. They are blatantly ignoring the police and refusing offers of assistance from Homeless Outreach Teams. This cannot continue. The Homeless Outreach Teams and the police cannot continue to walk away, leaving these people on the streets in violation of federal, state, and local laws governing health, safety and sanitation.
The foundation of any civilized society contains some semblance of law and order. That foundation cracks when citizens and enforcement officials alike ignore laws and regulations designed to protect us all. Thank you.
OCTOBER 10, 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgeRBUs9sHQ&t=8076s (forward to 2:12:27)
My name is Lynn Landes and I am the co-founder of SafeStreetsPhilly.org speaking on 160720. Just as there are rules for businesses such as where to locate a grocery store, there are also rules for residents.
There is a homeless encampment of 17 tents a couple blocks away from City Hall on Vine Street between 16th and 17th Streets. The other night there were 50 people sleeping outside of the Convention Center. Every day we are calling about homeless sleeping in our neighborhood, just 5 blocks away from here.
We were told that the homeless are living on the streets of Philadelphia because federal courts have said that they have the right to, but that is not what the courts said. In Martin v The City of Boise the 9th Circuit ruled that IF there is no shelter provided by the city, only then could the homeless sleep on the street. Yesterday I received an email from the city’s Managing Director, who told me that the homeless have a constitutional right to sleep on the street and they couldn’t be forced into shelters.
We have been trying to get the homeless off of the streets and into the shelters, thinking that ‘available space’ was the deciding factor. But now we are being told that it isn’t; that if the homeless want to sleep outside that’s their right. That is not what the court said, but that is the position of the City of Philadelphia. It’s an invitation to chaos.
The police are demoralized, businesses are frustrated, and residents are angry. The city is bragging that they are handling the problem by not arresting anyone. This carrot and carrot approach to law enforcement is not working. District Attorney Krasner is not doing his job, and other city officials have a confused notion of constitutional rights that ignores the rights of all residents to live in a city that protects their health, safety, and welfare. Thank you.
OCTOBER 3, 2019: (emailed instead)
My name is Lynn Landes. I am a Co-Founder of SafeStreetsPhilly.org.
In Philadelphia, the status quo is not working. The homeless, mainly drug addicts and the seriously mentally ill, are living on the streets, sidewalks, back alleys, public parks, and up against this very building - City Hall. They are openly drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, repeatedly panhandling, chronically loitering, illegally camping, and laying on the sidewalks. These activities are violations of “prohibited conduct” under Title 10 of the Philadelphia Code, but it is not enforced.
In fact, City Council has tied the police department’s hands. Under a provision of Title 10, when a homeless person violates the law, the police must first call the Homeless Outreach Team, who simply come out, offer their services, and leave just as quickly if the homeless person wants to stay put. The city has literally put law enforcement into the hands of a social service agency, and that agency has left it to the homeless to decide whether they want to comply or not.
Under the city’s “carrot and carrot” approach to law enforcement, there is no incentive for the homeless to obey the law.
Ironically, City Council passed Title 9, in an effort to punish businesses that allow “prohibited conduct” in the vicinity of their establishments. Yet, the City itself is allowing this very same “prohibited conduct” to occur at City Hall and in other public spaces. The police issue Civil Violation Notices, but they are not taken seriously and the District Attorney is letting people out of jail as quickly as the police put them in.
Philadelphia must house the homeless, to do otherwise is barbaric. However, the homeless must obey the law. It is the only way to get this population off of the streets and restore order. The federal courts have said that the homeless can live on the streets ONLY IF there is no shelter space available. Therefore, it is incumbent on the city to provide that space, as well as to keep the peace.
BACKGROUND: This is personal and the situation is getting much worse. Twice in the past two weeks my husband and I have found homeless people sitting on stoops next to our house. On Tuesday, one couple became belligerent and refused to leave, so I called the police. Not inclined to wait, my husband and some neighbors urged the couple to leave the neighborhood. This is happening to other neighbors as well, where the homeless are camping out on their doorsteps. People are taking the law into their own hands as the result of a complete dereliction of duty on the part of city officials under Title 10.
City officials have given the homeless the “green light” that anything goes in Philadelphia. And as a result, the problem continues to escalate, as more homeless, mentally ill, and drug addicts stream into the city. Some estimate that 30% of the homeless come from outside of Philadelphia.
In my neighborhood there is a charter school that is literally surrounded by this population. The back of the building, where the students get on the bus, is strewn with garbage because the homeless repeatedly break into the dumpsters. Everyone knows the chief culprit, yet the police won’t arrest him. And even if they did, the police say that the District Attorney’s office will not prosecute.
On many days, you can find a young woman lying on the sidewalk, shaking under her blanket. The students see her, as others walk by. It is barbaric to leave her there. So we repeatedly call 911, who in turn call the Homeless Outreach Team, who come out, ask her if she needs anything, and then go away again, leaving her exactly where they found her.
I had a meeting with a psychiatrist and social worker the other day who know this woman, and they solemnly told me that there’s nothing that the city can do. They said that this seriously mentally ill person is not a danger to herself or others, so she has the right to stay on the sidewalk. This is insane. If our state law really says that, then it needs to be changed, and if federal court decisions ruled that, then they need to be challenged.
We have had meetings with Councilman Mark Squilla and city officials, including the Philadelphia Police Department, Transit Police, Streets Department, and Department of Homeless Services. We have spoken at City Council meetings, sent numerous letters and emails to Mayor Kenney, City Council, city officials, and the National Park Service, including photos and films, documenting homeless encampments, panhandlers, drug addicts, and others in violation of Title 10 in the area, from City Hall to Washington Square Park.
We call 911 several times a day, reporting “prohibited conduct” on the street, which is important as the police have not been conducting routine patrols, and when they do, they often ride right by the violators, not stopping. To be fair, the police complain that aspects of Title 10 and the District Attorney have tied their hands, and we agree.
One of the first things we did as SafeStreetsPhilly.org was to alert businesses to the fact that they had a ‘right and responsibility’ to keep the “vicinity” around their businesses clear of “prohibited behavior”, under Titles 9 & 10 of the Philadelphia Code. Most of the businesses thought that their responsibility ended at their door. In fact, some large corporations have directed their staff to avoid doing anything about certain activities on their sidewalks, such as panhandling.
So it was a revelation to many business owners, managers, and staff, that there are laws on the books that require businesses to keep their outside areas clean and safe from “prohibited conduct”, which includes “repeated” panhandling, laying on the sidewalk, etc.. That said, enforcement of Titles 9 & 10 is spotty at best, (City Hall itself is in violation of it, as homeless are spending the night there), and Code 10 needs to be amended in order to give the police the authority they need to enforce the law effectively and promptly.
The requirement, that the police must wait for Homeless Outreach Teams, has been extremely problematic, together with the fact that many of the homeless refuse to go into shelters, so that should be amended as soon as possible, which we suggest below. In addition, there is the issue of the District Attorney and his policies regarding which laws are enforced and the effectiveness of that enforcement. DA Krasner is key to solving this problem. We could go on, but would instead direct you to our suggestions below and our website. Thank you for your attention.
September 19, 2019
Good morning. My name is Lynn Landes and I am the co-founder of SafeStreetsPhilly.org.
We believe that the city must provide housing and services to those in need, but the general public must also be protected. Common sense dictates that cities cannot allow people to live on the streets, because by doing so, the cities themselves are in violation of local, state, and federal laws governing ‘health, safety, sanitation and the environment’.
The federal courts have said that the homeless have a legal right to live on the street ONLY IF there is no shelter space available. Philadelphia usually does have available space , so why are so many of the homeless still living on our streets? We strongly recommend that the city make the commitment to always have shelter space available, so that there is no legal excuse for anyone to be living on our streets, and so that the law against living on the street can be effectively and promptly enforced.
More importantly, many of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, and should be receiving Social Security Disability (SSD), as my own son does. The problem is, applying for SSD and other services is a voluntary process in Philadelphia. To expect someone who is mentally ill to make decisions in their own self-interest, is completely unrealistic. Unfortunately, many of the non-profits who receive funds from the $100 million dollar budget of the Department of Homeless Services, are all too often, enabling the mentally ill to stay on the streets, rather than ensuring that they receive SSD, shelter, and the other services that would get them off of the streets.
Making matters worse, the bar has been set too high in Philadelphia for the seriously mentally ill to qualify for involuntary commitment and long term mental health care. State laws are not that restrictive. That bar must be lowered, and if necessary, challenged in court. We ask that the Mayor and City Council take steps to address this situation for the sake of all Philadelphians. Please visit SafeStreetsPhilly.org for more information. Thank you for your attention.
(This was more of an introduction, since I plan to be speaking to City Council on a wide range of subjects.)
September 12, 2019
Good morning. My name is Lynn Landes. I am an 18 year resident of Philadelphia. I am also the founder of various meetup groups, including the Wild Foodies of Philly (WildFoodies.org), a foraging group of over 4600 members. We educate the public in the uses of wild plants for food, fiber, and medicine. We would also like to see this subject taught in our schools. In addition, we ask that City Council take steps to prevent Parks and Recreation from using Roundup and similar toxic products in our parks and along our streets and sidewalks, as there are safe and effective substitutes that will do a better job, such as simple 5% household vinegar.
I am also the founder of PhillyKnits.org, a 2000+ member organization that meets in libraries and cafes across the city. We are dedicated to teaching others how to knit and crochet. Again, we believe that it is important for our schools to teach skills, as well as knowledge to our students, as part of a balanced education. To that end, we have supplied over 100 boxes of donated yarn to the Philadelphia School District’s Arts Education Resource Center.
In addition, I co-founded HealthAlertPhilly.org, which focuses on hot button health issues, such as vaccinations, fluoridation, smart meters, LED street lights, 5G, and other exposures that adversely affect the public health.
And lastly, my husband and I have co-founded two groups. The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (SmallStreetsPhilly.org) that assists the Streets Department in its selection of historically-certified streets to restore. And recently, we started SafeStreetsPhilly.org, where we seek an end to living on the streets by the homeless, mentally ill, and drug addicts, and instead find practical solutions to ensure that they receive the assistance they need, and that quality of life issues for the general public are also effectively addressed.
In the future I hope to be appearing regularly before City Council to update you on these issues. Thank you for your attention (and feel free to contact me at any time).