Encampment

The homeless encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street. — Tribune Photo/Abdul R. Sulayman

A federal judge could determine on Thursday whether the Kenney administration can evict the hundreds of pro-affordable housing protesters living in encampments in the city.

A hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. before U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Eduardo C. Robreno over a legal action encampment protesters brought against the city. The judge will decide whether to grant protesters a temporary restraining order or injunction that would prevent the city from disbanding the camps. 

Kenney administration spokesman Mike Dunn said in an email that the city will file its response to the legal action on Thursday and declined to speculate on the result of the hearing. 

Dunn added that the city continues to offer outreach services to those living at the camp, which includes temporary housing and social services. The city has housed 94 individuals from the camps in temporary housing to date. 

Protesters filed the suit Monday, hours after the Kenney administration posted a second notice for protesters to dissolve the encampments.

Attorney Michael Huff, who is representing the protesters pro bono, filed on behalf of Irvin Murray, Maurice Scott, Dolores McFadden, Faith Anne Burdick and Edwin Jones. The suit names the city and Mayor Jim Kenney as defendants.

The legal action appeared to prevent the Kenney administration from enforcing its Tuesday deadline for protesters to leave the encampments. 

Following the missed deadline, organizers met for hours with the Kenney administration Tuesday.

The lawsuit is the latest step in the months-long protests focusing on the city's lack of affordable housing. 

The James Talib-Dean encampment is located on a baseball field on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street. At least 150 individuals are living tents at the camp, which began in early June. 

A smaller encampment is based on a vacant PHA-owned lot at 21st Street and Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia; approximately 20 individuals are living there. Developers are slated to construct housing units and a grocery store there.

And a third encampment has popped up at the Azalea Gardens behind the Art Museum of Philadelphia. 

While protesters have several demands, their primary goal is to have PHA to transfer scores of its long-vacant properties to a community land trust in order to create permanent and diverse low-income housing options, rather than sell the properties to private developers.

The Kenney administration and PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah have agreed to several commitments, arguing they have met protesters half-way.

City officials also have said that immediately transferring PHA-owned property is impossible because that housing stock is held in trust for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Kenney's first deadline to disband the camps was set for July 17, which he delayed while the sides continued to negotiate. 

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