You could hear the frustration and the anger, and state Rep. James Clay got an earful of it in a loud, not always civil, public meeting last week.
The ire was not directed at the Frankford lawmaker, but at a subject that’s all too familiar to neighborhood residents: illegal housing for recovering addicts.
For years, members of the Frankford Civic Association and other neighborhood residents have complained about what they believe is a large number of “recovery homes” or “transitional housing” for addicts. They’ve griped that those facilities, many of which they believe are illegal, bring crime and more drug use into Frankford, which, in turn, discourages investment in the community as well as creating quality-of-life issues.
Clay, the 179th district Democrat, had invited residents and some city officials to bring their complaints and suggestions to a Sept. 19 town hall meeting in Aria Health’s Frankford campus.
Sixty-six people showed up, and they weren’t a quiet bunch.
“We need a little help in our neighborhood,” one man said. “We need somebody to do something.”
Residents ticked off problem locations, crimes and disturbances, and sometimes, ticked off each other as they jockeyed for chances to tell their stories and offer their opinions.
Several people who live around Worth and Orthodox streets said there have been numerous shootings and other crimes in their area.
There have been a lot of shootings in that neighborhood, said Police Sgt. Edward Pisarek, and there has been a spike in recent weeks. He said there is a war going on between people who live on different sides of Frankford Avenue.
Others said they didn’t understand why problem properties can’t be shut down
A resident of the 4600 block of Worth St. said shuttering illegal housing would put an end to some neighborhood crime.
Before and after the session, Clay said he was gathering information about what is legal and illegal housing so he can determine what kind of controls state legislation can put on the facilities.
Clay said residents provided 27 addresses of what they believe to be problem locations.
“The people are not upset by legal housing,” he said. Legislation, he said, could legally define and set up licenses of recovery homes.
Neighborhood problems with housing for recovering addicts is not just a local issue, said Roland Lamb, director of the city’s Office of Addiction Services. “It’s around the United States.”
Fred Way, of the Philadelphia Association of Recovery Residences, said recovery houses are not funded by the state.
There are 18 state-funded drug-rehabilitation facilities in the city, he said, and only two in Frankford.
“The rest are independent and unfunded homes,” he said. “We know where the bad homes are … but how do we close them?”
What is now legal can be defined broadly, residents learned at the meeting. There is no state or city license for a so-called recovery home, they were told.
There is no license specifically issued for a facility that provides housing for recovering addicts, said Ralph DiPietro, operations director of the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. “A housing license is the only one we have,” he said.
And, it’s the same license for renting a home or a condo in Center City, he added.
But there are limits on what is rented legally, he said. For example, he explained, only three unrelated people may reside in a rental property. Any more, he said, and the property is in violation of the city’s zoning code.
Residents have complained that the operators of so-called recovering homes jam many more than three people into their facilities. Proving the violation, DiPietro said, is not easy. ••