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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

1-Year After Rally: A Call for Bold Action to Address Housing

Almost exactly one year ago, the Montco 30% Project held our initial rally and launch on the Courthouse steps in Norristown. Speakers included two state representatives, an expert on eviction, faith leaders, and advocates. 

We find ourselves in a moment of tremendous political interest to come up with solutions. Yet we are still struggling to deal with local opposition (nimbyism) to concrete proposals at the local level that could help – such as Genny’s Place in Lower Providence. 

We encourage you to sign and share the “open letter” and petition found below – written by Norristown’s Jane Pekol – and addressed to Montgomery County Commissioners Jamila Winder, Neil Makhija, and Thomas DiBello. 

From right: Madeleine Dahms, Jane Pekol, Alton Dahms, and Mike Hays


A Petition to the Montgomery County Commissioners from Residents Concerned about Housing and Homelessness in our Communities

Commissioners, while the word “home” invokes a sense of warmth and belonging, the market for housing is cold, inhospitable, non-cooperative, and not functioning fairly for families or individuals. Currently, we are letting the run-amok free market dictate rents and the availability of homes in our county. We lack adequate safety nets or options for unfortunate circumstances. This is unsustainable and unjust. We need to reimagine the status quo. Wages have just not risen to match rising costs of living; it is not uncommon to make it through the month and not have enough money to pay rent on the 1st. 

In late April, advocates and those on the margins received a major setback when the Lower Providence Supervisors pulled a proposal for 60 units of supportive housing off the table. This latest example of nimbyism only reinforces our belief that Montgomery County must use every option and tool at its disposal, including utilizing existing buildings under its management for housing purposes. 

My community is not a gated community and we welcome growth. We want to honor and protect the uniqueness and the accomplishments of our municipalities while we develop and revitalize. I understand that a healthy community has diversity of races and ethnicities, of economic backgrounds, of opportunity, of residential, commercial, and industrial spaces. If we refuse to build homes that are accessible to middle and low-income families, we are effectively saying that only people who make $X or above are welcome in our community. I want to actively work to desegregate my county and to proactively welcome diversity in my locality. 

I am alarmed at the prevalence of homelessness in my county and I firmly reject tents as an option for unhoused persons. I do not want tent cities in my community for the following reasons: because it is inhumane, because we can do better, because it means that we are all, collectively, failing our people. 

Although Montgomery County is an objectively wealthy county, I understand that there is need and scarcity throughout. For this reason I believe that services should be plentiful and accessible throughout the county. Since government buildings, non-profits, and subsidized housing generate less tax revenue for a municipality, they must be distributed to ensure that all school districts and municipal coffers are sufficiently funded.

I understand that in addition to transitional shelters and safety-net housing, homes for the “missing middle” are needed. It is not cause for alarm when developers propose multi-family housing in my neighborhood. 

The realities are stark and the cards are stacked against those without generational wealth, supportive, and well-resourced families. I understand that the homeownership gap is widening between white Americans and minorities, particularly black Americans. Work must be done to bring the possibility of home ownership back within reach of the average Montco resident. 

We all know that we are still in the grip of an opioid crisis fueled by Big Pharma and our own government’s negligence. I understand that people cannot work if they are in active addiction, experiencing substance use disorder. I know that they are unlikely to get better while living in a tent encampment, and that they require an investment by their community into their recovery. With that support, they can return to wellness and productivity. 

Shelter is at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Without it, we cannot hope to achieve as individuals or as a society. Commissioners, I ask that you give us a comprehensive and inspiring plan to address the dual issues of scarcity and affordability of places to live. I also ask that you put forth a plan to eliminate homelessness in our county. If you do these things on the county level, I will welcome and support the necessary construction, additional service providers, and alterations to my community in order to enact a compassionate and multi-faceted approach. 

Commissioners, we ask that you seriously explore the provision of unoccupied county-owned property for the expressed use of year-round shelter operations. We believe that during a time of urgent crisis, no structurally sound and safe county assets should remain vacant and empty while our neighbors suffer. 

YIMBY: Yes. In. My. Backyard.

Sign Here. Thank you!

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