Email Mayor Kenney: Time for a Change at OHS

On May 5th, two encampments that provide community and security for unhoused Philadelphians not well served by the shelter system, were evicted. Residents were harassed by police; displaced; lost their possessions; and were separated from the community they formed. Now unhoused residents of Kensington are threatened with displacement from the entire neighborhood.

The May 5th eviction and June 16th threat are the most recent of countless similar evictions that have happened all across our city, coordinated with the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) under the leadership of director Elizabeth Hersh.

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, Ms. Hersh has continued to call for and fund encampment eviction, where police physically barricade residents and helpers away from their belongings, trash those belongings, and threaten residents who wish to remain in these public spaces with arrest. Inexplicably, Ms. Hersh closed Philadelphia's successful hotel program, and refused to even apply for federal reimbursement for the money spent. The concern we have with her leadership has been growing for years, and it’s long past time to end the evictions.

We need your help! Elizabeth Hersh knows our concerns and has ignored them, so now we are going to her boss. We need as many voices as possible, so they cannot say they didn’t hear us. Take action by using this form to send an email to Mayor Kenney, and help us flood his inbox.

We are calling for Mayor Kenney to remove Ms. Hersh as director, and work with people who are unhoused, in the shelter system, and those with experience in OHS programming to ensure that when new leadership is chosen, it is someone who actually has their best interests at heart.

ACT UP Philadelphia is demanding this necessary change in leadership, as well as the following asks to prioritize the safety of unhoused people:

  1. Immediately stop ALL evictions including evictions of encampments and evictions from homeless shelters

  2. Immediately form a paid oversight board of shelter residents, people receiving OHS support for permanent housing (e.g. SRO residents, voucher holders), and unhoused individuals, and invest in skilled facilitators and training on oversight skills such as analyzing budget and policy

  3. Immediately review all city contractors and their policies to ensure real trauma-informed and Housing First policies and practices are in place at every city-funded provider

  4. Immediately re-open the COVID hotels, apply for FEMA reimbursement, and invest the money in creating accessible, city run, Housing First, trauma-informed shelter that works for people of all genders, family sizes and configurations, and accessibility needs

Replace the current leadership of OHS with people approved by the oversight board
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