BACKGROUND / PA & CITY LAWS / MENTAL ILLNESS / DHS / UPDATES
EMAIL us to join our efforts or for updates: Lynn and Cliff Landes / LynnLandes@gmail.com
UPDATE: Feb 16, 2022 - Thankfully, in many parts of the city the problem of the homeless and panhandlers is not as bad as it was two years ago due to the constant calling to 911 by our members and other citizens, although the subway has taken a hit.
Last week we called on two homeless encampments (actual wood huts) that were built in the woods across from Lemon Hill, and in clear sight of hundreds of people who walk in the park. In this case, we emailed the head of Fairmount Park Maintenance, Susan Buck, and she responded immediately. It will be cleaned up this week or next. We'll keep our eye on it.
In addition, stem vent covers have been installed in several spots in the downtown area of 12th Street and Market Street to prevent the homeless from blocking the sidewalk and sleeping on them. We requested this two years ago, so we are very grateful that they have finally been installed. Now, we're asking that the Mural Arts Program or similar group paint them so that they are as attractive as possible.
Also, the Department of Homeless Services appears to be more quickly responding to complaints. That said, violence across the city is up due to the Covid mandates/school shutdowns/quarantines (i.e., kids not in school), lack of "boots on the ground" and enforcement by the police, and lack of prosecutions by the District Attorney's Office. So, keep calling 911 and our political leaders and see below for more info.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? CALL, CALL, CALL 911 every time you see homeless, panhandlers, etc. blocking the sidewalk, camping without a permit, or other violations of PA & City Code. The police are reluctant to take the first step for fear of being accused of harassment. Calling 911 is the single most effective thing we are doing...every day. Learn more HERE.
We are asking the City of Philadelphia to do the following:
the public, both property owners and tenants, about
their absolute 'legal right'
under state and city laws (Titles 9 & 10)
to keep their sidewalks clear of criminal behavior and prohibited conduct
(i.e., loiterers, panhandlers, and the homeless).
The City should issue public
service announcements (PSAs) & education on the
importance of laws regarding health, sanitation, & public conduct.
Unfortunately, most businesses don't know about Title 9 or Title 10.
Many businesses who have security staff, often do not allow them to enforce
security outside of the building, in violation of Title 9. This is a situation
that SafeStreetsPhilly has tried to remediate through educating the various
businesses, but it would be better handled by the city disseminating this
information to the public in a more orderly and uniform manner, such as on tax
bills and statements, in radio and TV spots, and on buses!
Enforce the law.
Particularly, Titles 9 and 10.
If necessary, sue the District Attorney and Police Commissioner for "failure
to enforce the law". Enforce
'no camping on public property without a permit' AND always have shelter space
available. Federal court
decisions have stated that people can live on the street “IF” municipalities
provide NO shelter space, which makes sense (Martin
v City of Boise). Therefore, it is incumbent on governments to always
have shelter space available for the homeless. Non-profits
cannot make this commitment. Whereas, the city has thousands of vacant
buildings, and some could be quickly converted. That said, every county in the
country should also have available emergency shelters, including facilities
for short term and long term mental health care and drug rehabilitation. To
that end, the City of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should
take steps to meet with their colleagues in other cities and states to agree
to share this responsibility and build publicly funded facilities.
"Repeated Panhandling" under Title 10, and if necessary, challenge the 9th
Circuit Court's ruling that ruled panhandling is a form of "free speech".
Panhandlers are often drug addicts
who provide the perfect environment for drug dealers to do business, as well
as pose a constant problem to many businesses and neighborhoods. The city
should determine if there is a real need for financial assistance or
employment, and then take the appropriate action through city
services. Also, no person or organizations, including nonprofits, should be allowed to panhandle or
solicit drivers in traffic.
Code, Title 10, to strengthen enforcement of “Prohibited Conduct”, by
allowing the police to cite and remove violators immediately, if necessary.
The police should take the homeless to a facility for assessment, shelter, and
services, rather than to have the Homeless Outreach Team come out to the scene
of the violation, where the homeless often reject offers of assistance and
continue to violate Philadelphia laws. Complainants should be able to file
charges at the scene of the crime, rather than be required to go to Detectives
Central, which many businesspeople do not have the time or staff to do. In
addition, chronic offenders should receive progressive sentencing, the more
the offenses, the longer the sentence. That said, we are strong supporters of
rehabilitation programs, job training, and drug treatment in prison and out.
police patrols, day and night. Plus, the police are over-relying on the
public to call 911.
It appears that unless residents and businesses complain, nothing happens.
This could be an over-reaction to charges of police harassment.
Request that mayor and
city council work with PA state
representatives in Harrisburg to amend Pennsylvania Code, 5100.84 for involuntary
commitments, so that those who need
long-term or life-time mental health shelter and care can receive it. It is
laws like this one that have resulted in the mentally ill living on the street
or in prison.
identity of the homeless
who are coming in for shelter and services. In some cases, the
“homeless” have homes, assets, and relatives or caretakers who are looking for
them, but because the sharing of information is too often a voluntary process
at government offices and nonprofit shelters, that information is not
available or acted upon.
Ensure that the
mentally ill, who qualify for SSD and other benefits, receive them,
along with an assigned a case worker. Currently, the Office of Homeless
Servicer and some non-profits offer to assist in getting SSD benefits for the
mentally ill, but it is a voluntary process on the part of the mentally &
physically ill. See
more info below
Audit the Department
of Homeless Services to
ensure that their $100 million dollar budget is being effectively employed.
There is a widespread and serious concern that many of the non-profits are
enabling the homeless to live on the streets, rather than effectively getting
them off of the streets.
rehabilitation, drug treatment, and job training to those in need.
Life skills, crafts, and a wide variety of job training services
are needed for those in need, facilities, or in prison, including primitive
skills and crafts, from low tech to high (such as gardening, knitting,
crochet, weaving, sewing, wood working, furniture repair, tool making, lamp
construction and repairs, dog training, the building trades, computer
programming and repair, etc.). There are many in the city who would volunteer
their time and talents to such a venture.
Remove All SEPTA Benches:
When the city removed the SEPTA
benches across from Macy's on Market Street, it made a huge difference in
discouraging the panhandlers, drunks, and miscreants to hang out in that area.
If people need to sit, there are light weight fold-up stools they can buy.
Therefore, we strongly urge the city to remove all seating for bus stops as
they are a magnet for trouble.
All The Sidewalk Steam Vents Need To
Be Covered in order to prevent the homeless from camping there.
dumpsters, trash cans, and food waste containers
that are accessible to the public, as they are magnets for health and
BUSINESS: Every business, tenant, and property owner has the 'legal right' to keep their sidewalks clear of loiterers at any time, no restrictions. In Philadelphia, under Title 9, businesses have the ‘right and responsibility’ to keep the vicinity around their business free from “prohibited conduct” as defined under Title 10. 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. Unfortunately, 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. Even businesses who have security staff, often do not allow them to enforce security outside of the building, in violation of Title 9. This is a situation that SafeStreetsPhilly has tried to remediate through educating the various businesses, but it would be better handled by the city disseminating this information to the public.
TITLE 9-4400. RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS -- OPERATIONS: http://library.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Pennsylvania/philadelphia_pa/title9regulationofbusinessestradesandpro/chapter9-4400responsiblebusinessoperatio?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:philadelphia_pa$anc=JD_Chapter9-4400
TITLE 10. REGULATION OF INDIVIDUAL CONDUCT AND ACTIVITY -- http://library.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Pennsylvania/philadelphia_pa/title10regulationofindividualconductanda/chapter10-600publicplaces-prohibitedcond?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:philadelphia_pa$anc=JD_Chapter10-600
"Prohibited Conduct" under Title 10 (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
EMAIL to join our efforts or for updates: Lynn and Cliff Landes / LynnLandes@gmail.com