10-03-88 03:10 ped Homeless dispute not all bad, say advocates By HAROLD H. MARTIN PHILADE
10-03-88 03:10 ped
Homeless dispute not all bad, say advocates
By HAROLD H. MARTIN
PHILADELPHIA (UPI) _ Philadelphia's dispute with 15 operators of
shelters for the homeless could accelerate plans to provide permanent
housing for the unfortunate, advocates for the homeless said Monday.
The city severed relations with the shelter operators on Saturday
when they turned out residents because of a disagreement over
compensation. About 500 people had to be housed in emergency shelters,
said LaVon Bracy, deputy director of the Office of Services for the
A shelter operator said, however, it was a dispute instigated by
the city's attempt to dictate terms, and denied anyone was evicted.
Bracy said most operators of nearly 200 shelters, operated under
contracts with the city, accepted the new arrangements in mid-July, but
45, representing about 2,500 beds, decided to try and negotiate terms.
The city had been paying $13 per person per day, with a $284 per
month cap, and offered to pay $10 per day with a $310 cap to encourage
shelters to take long-term clients, Bracy said.
She said they would not resume negotiations with those 15 operators
who turned out the homeless.
"We can't continue to allow the clients to be displaced and to be
traumatized in this way," Bracy said.
"I don't think this is a bad thing at all," said Chris Sprowal
head of the Committee for Dignity and Fairness for the Homeless, a
homeless advocacy group.
Sprowal said he supports the city in the dispute, and called the
actions of shelter owners "callous."
Sprowal said the dispute should speed up the city's plans to phase
out shelters and encourage programs to provide permanent housing for the
Phyllis Ryan, another official of the Philadelphia Committee for
the Homeless agreed.
"I think it underscores absolutely the need to get on with that
business, so that people are not just being churned through the shelter
system," she said.
She said money that went to the 15 operators could be used to fund
the city's housing voucher program, which helps poor residents pay for
"Shelters are a waste of taxpayer's money. It's money going into
an empty barrel," Sprowal said. "The people move in at night homeless
and when they come out in the morning they're still homeless."
"We say put them in permanent housing and help them sustain it,"
said Sprowal, who called shelters "the poorhouses of the 20th
He said programs now in place to provide permanent housing need to
be doubled, and the dispute could help free up the money to do it.
The committee he heads, he said, has a contract to provide 200
permanent housing units.
"We need to speed that process up. Instead of having 50 permanent
units by Christmas we need 100," he said.
"We need to wipe shelters out once and for all," he said.
"Hopefully this will be the catalyst to move this process along
Michael McLaughlin, of the Hare Krishna Food for Life, which houses
150 people in two shelters, said: "The city is making us out to be big
He said the occupants had received a letter from the city saying if
negotiations broke down the shelter occupants should go to the Adult
He said they told clients to leave their belongings and their rooms
intact and to go to the office, he said, but when they learned they
would be sent to gymnasiums and forced to sleep on floors, "we called
and told them to send our people back."
His shelters now have about 110 people, he said.
McLaughlin said he understands that if they keep shelter residents
they will be doing it for free.
"We understand that but we're not sending them to a gymnasium to
sleep on the floor."
Ryan said, however, the city could be faced with 500 more homeless
within 24 hours if shelter operators decided not to keep them any longer
McLaughlin said the shelter hoped it could find a mediator and
continue negotiations with the city so operators could go on "begging
and borrowing and making it work to serve the homeless."
Sprowal said, however, they would fight the city if they tried to
renegotiate with those shelter operators.
"Anyone who would be so callous as to put women and children out
in the street over the question of money are people we shouldn't be
dealing with," he said.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank