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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

Recap: New shelter in Plymouth Meeting; Norristown to land before the U.N., & Events

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

This week saw a series of developments surrounding housing and homelessness, with stories and updates from Norristown and Upper Gwynedd, as well as a Saturday forum to mark the imminent opening of a new Code Blue shelter in Plymouth Meeting.

At Church on the Mall in Plymouth Meeting, a large audience gathered to both celebrate the 3rd anniversary of CAARSEA – the Colonial Area Anti-Racist Social Equity Alliance – and also thank organizers who are poised to open a “Code Blue" shelter at the church on Oct. 1. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees during the winter, churches and other service organizations activate temporary shelters to keep people off the streets. These efforts are coordinated through Your Way Home and 211.

Saturday’s event featured a panel discussion, as well remarks from State Sen. Maria Collett (D-12th), Montgomery County Commissioner Jamila Winder, and Sal Giannone, proprietor of Sal’s Barber Shops.

“Affordable housing needs to be in every community,” Giannone said. “It’s for the people.”

Giannone, who was previously homeless and struggled with addiction, also emphasized the importance of job training & opportunities, compassion, and kindness. He noted that many people are just “a few paychecks away” from financial ruin.

Collett, whose district includes Plymouth Meeting, acknowledged the complexities of housing and homelessness, while adding that it will take a “whole community and whole government” approach. Meanwhile, Winder, who was appointed earlier this year to a vacancy and is running for re-election this fall, listed county investments in housing services, while acknowledging “we are not perfect.”

Rev. Alex Evangelista moderated a full panel of speakers, which included representatives from Access Services, Your Way Home, RHD, a New Jersey developer, local police departments, and Mike Hays from Montco 30% Project. A full recorded live stream is available on the CAARSEA Facebook page.

In the news –

The Philadelphia Inquirer broke a story about Norristown’s actions (or inaction) surrounding homelessness landing it before the United Nations next month. “Local and national advocates plan to charge Norristown officials with human rights violations of people experiencing homelessness,” according to the story by Alfred Lubrano. The U.N. labels criminalizing homelessness as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

While any findings would not carry the weight of the law, Lubrano wrote, U.N. resolutions have been central to court decisions in America. The story developed as the result of a Right-to-Know request submitted in May by the Community Justice Project.

In a related article, The Lansdale Reporter covered public comments we made during Tuesday’s Norristown Council meeting about emails related to homelessness in the municipality (More on this story in an upcoming post).

Also, Upper Gwynedd experienced a small setback when it came to light at a recent township meeting that the map amendment approved in August will need to be re-advertised and voted on again. This news relates to the 60-unit proposed Cornerstone at Pennbrook, which would offer homes at affordable rates (incomes between $44K-$66K). Asked on Saturday about the paperwork mistake, Kim Krauter of the Walters Group said that it will result in a minor delay in the development, hopefully proceeding to ultimate construction.

Upcoming Events

  • Fundraiser: Dinner (donation amount of your choice) to support Ann Francis Outreach Foundation on Friday, Oct, 7 at Copperfield Inn, Limerick. Ann Francis received funding from MontCo to purchase a small apartment building at 606 Swede St., Norristown, and offer rentals at affordable rates.

  • Fundraiser: Sole Harvest 5K (and 1K walk) to support the Norristown Hospitality Center on Oct. 14th at Norristown Farm Park.

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