Northeast Times

Trash, homeless hot topics in Upper Holmesburg

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Waste dis­pos­al and home­less­ness are touchy top­ics of dis­cus­sion at com­munity civic meet­ings.

Pro­spects of new garbage pro­cessing op­er­a­tions or new home­less shel­ters in a com­munity usu­ally be­get skep­ti­cism and fear among nearby prop­erty own­ers.

But neigh­bors in Up­per Holmes­burg didn’t seem to mind re­cently when Phil­adelphia’s pris­ons com­mis­sion­er told them about a pro­posed food-waste com­post­ing pro­gram. Nor did the loc­als seem overly con­cerned about plans for an in­de­pend­ent, non-profit home­less pro­gram that will ro­tate among sev­er­al area churches in the com­ing months.

“It’s a very small pro­gram help­ing fam­il­ies stay near their so­cial sup­port sys­tem,” Rachel Falkove, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the In­ter­faith Hos­pit­al­ity Net­work, said dur­ing the monthly meet­ing of the Up­per Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Falkove’s pro­gram is based in the North­w­est sec­tion of the city but is ex­pand­ing in­to the North­east to meet the needs of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of dis­placed fam­il­ies here, the dir­ect­or said. Par­ti­cip­at­ing re­li­gious con­greg­a­tions and their pro­gram vo­lun­teers take turns host­ing home­less fam­il­ies and help­ing them re­gain sta­bil­ity.

Faith Luther­an Church at 4150 Wood­haven Road will be the first North­east host site throughout Au­gust, Falkove said. The op­er­a­tion will move to Rhawn­hurst Pres­by­teri­an Church at 7701 Lor­etto Ave. in Septem­ber, then Ox­ford Circle Men­non­ite Church at 900 E. How­ell St. in Oc­to­ber.

Each site will host no more than three fam­il­ies at a time, Falkove said. Each month, the pro­gram will va­cate one church and move to the next.

Some vo­lun­teers pre­pare and host meals for par­ti­cip­at­ing fam­il­ies, while oth­ers spend nights with them. The hos­pit­al­ity pro­gram also plans to open a per­man­ent day­time fa­cil­ity where par­ti­cip­at­ing fam­ily mem­bers can spend their time when not at work or school. Pro­gram lead­ers are look­ing to set up the day­time fa­cil­ity near the Ox­ford Circle neigh­bor­hood, Falkove said.

The hos­pit­al­ity net­work hopes to re­cruit ad­di­tion­al North­east re­li­gious sites.

Falkove as­sured neigh­bors that or­gan­izers are very se­lect­ive in who they wel­come in­to the pro­gram. Fam­il­ies are sub­ject to crim­in­al back­ground checks and should have a plan for find­ing their way out of dire straits.

The pro­gram is not a per­man­ent solu­tion for their prob­lems. The av­er­age length of stay is four months per fam­ily.

“We’re not talk­ing about people who are plaguing the sys­tem,” Falkove said. “We’re talk­ing about people with strengths we can build upon.”

On the garbage dis­pos­al front, Pris­ons Com­mis­sion­er Louis Giorla as­sured res­id­ents that smells and pests will not be a prob­lem with the pris­ons sys­tem’s new food-waste com­post­ing pro­gram.

Un­eaten pris­on food and oth­er “source-sep­ar­ated or­gan­ics” will be de­pos­ited in­to four closely con­trolled bays at the site of the former Holmes­burg Pris­on, 8215 Tor­res­dale Ave. The bays will be 8 feet by 10 feet and fea­ture an aer­a­tion sys­tem that will ac­cel­er­ate the chem­ic­al pro­cess of com­post­ing.

“We’ve been told this pro­cess won’t at­tract in­sects, pests or wild an­im­als,” Giorla said.

The pris­ons will use much of the res­ult­ing com­post in its hor­ti­cul­ture and green­house pro­grams, while some will be sent to the Pennsylvania Hor­ti­cul­ture So­ci­ety and some made avail­able to the com­munity.

Com­post­ing will al­low the pris­ons sys­tem to save tax­pay­er money by re­du­cing its pay­ments to land­fills and by re­du­cing costs as­so­ci­ated with its kit­chen op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion­er, who did not an­nounce a start date for the com­post­ing pro­gram.

The next Up­per Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing will be on Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m., at St. Domin­ic’s Mari­an Hall, 8532 Frank­ford Ave. ••

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You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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