Our New Mayor: Keeping It Real

  • Jim Kenney at the Vote For Homes forum last September.
  • Mary Scullion addresses hundreds of mourners at Homeless Memorial Day in 2014.
Mayor-Elect Kenney has a big agenda. He promised to make solving homelessness in Philadelphia a part of it.

In just a few weeks on December 17, at the threshold of the darkest night of the year, people will gather outside City Hall with candles to remember how deadly poverty is, and how unforgiving are the streets of Philadelphia. Homeless Memorial Day, organized annually by a broad coalition of organizations, remembers those who have experienced homelessness and have died in 2015. It is a somber gathering. Every name is spoken into the air like a benediction.

But this is no peaceful service. There is pain at these services, and there is a quiet anger. We believe that no one should die outside on the streets of Philadelphia because they did not find their way to affordable housing. Poverty, we dare to assert, should take no more lives in our city.

Just two weeks after this gathering, the new mayor elect, James Kenney, assumes office. He has made some promises to the homeless persons and their advocates. This group hopes to hold him to them—and is also willing to join him in making them possible.

In a voter guide produced for the candidate forum organized by Vote for Homes last September, Jim Kenney made these commitments when asked about policies to end homelessness. He promised to double the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund to construct and renovate more affordable housing units across the city.  He specifically highlighted creating more units for families on the verge of homelessness. He said he would invest in commercial areas to grow the local economy and create jobs that could pay a living wage.

 In his “town hall” gatherings this week, advocates for Philadelphians who are homeless will be reminding him of these commitments. In a plea earlier this week, Joe Willard of People’s Emergency Center asked advocates raise the issues again: “If we don’t urge Kenney to seriously address homelessness, who will?”

Jim Kenney has been serious about educating himself on issues of homelessness, going so far as accompanying Project HOME’s outreach team on its rounds on Philadelphia streets. Also promising is Kenney’s knowledge and commitment to the Philadelphia  Housing Trust Fund, a largely unexplored way to draw state monies into housing development.

But he also sees the necessity for broad teamwork. When asked “What will you do to end homelessness?” he turns the question. “What will we do to end homelessness?”

The concerned citizens who will gather on Homeless Memorial Day December 17th will be advocating for solid answers to that question over his next four years, and they stand ready to partner with him to reach them.

Please sign the Vote For Homes petition to welcome Mayor-Elect Kenney and ask him to keep ending poverty and homelessness as the center of his work. Kenney’s town meetings are happening this week. If you are not able to attend your local town meeting, you can still offer your ideas and concerns using this link. Use your voice to remind Mayor-Elect Kenney that none of us are home until all of us are home.