Thursday, December 08, 2011

After Dilworth Plaza: Being Forced to Exist Alone

One of the best aspects of OccupyPhilly's former encampment at Dilworth Plaza was that it provided a semi-permanent community for homeless folks in Philadelphia to live in a central location with easy access to food and other important resources.  Since the city evicted the occupiers from Dilworth Plaza last week, the rare sense of community for the city's homeless has been destroyed.  Immediately after the eviction, some homeless occupiers attempted to set-up another encampment in North Philadelphia under a I-95 underpass, but they were recently asked to leave as well.  Paul Klemmer, one of the homeless occupiers, recently wrote an open letter to Mayor Nutter about the situation.  Check out the following heartbreaking excerpt:
Philadelphia has about 4,000 homeless people and 40,000 empty dwelling units, but, apparently, unless the wealthy can profit by our occupying these dwellings, they would rather see us alone, with our possessions if not stolen by regular criminals, "confiscated" by police, since we have no place to store anything we can't carry and are not allowed to congregate to watch one another's belongings.
You can check out more of Paul Klemmer's letter here.  The church needs to be a prophetic witness and support individuals like Paul who want to set up fully functioning communities where homeless folks can live, be good neighbors and even minister to each other without being victimized by our wider society.  As Paul mentions later on his letter, these encampments or facilities could be located in those forgotten, abandoned places in the city like foreclosed homes.  OccupyPhilly's Interfaith Working group has continued working on helping the homeless of our city find new, fully functioning communities to live instead of simply shelters.  The group can certainly provide a strong model for the rest of us.

God's peace,

UPDATE 12:47 PM: Here's a great video segment on this second eviction from Fox29 News:

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