Transgendered substance-abuse treatment facility plan moves from Kemble Ave. to Southwest Philly

Philadelphia will soon have a residential substance abuse treatment facility for transgendered men and women, but it won’t be at the Kemble Park Apartments.

A smaller version of the program which had been planned for 5701 Kemble Ave. will be created instead in Southwest Philadelphia, at an address neither city officials nor the non-profit that will run the facility will yet disclose.

Resources for Human Development already owns the property in the Southwest and it is scheduled for city inspections this week, the company said.

The Kemble Park plan for Morris Home would have housed 18 transgendered adults, all with substance-abuse problems and many formerly homeless, but the Southwest facility will start with eight residents, said Sade Ali, deputy commissioner of the city’s department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

“But that’s eight more than we had, and we have to start somewhere,” Ali said. Since the property had formerly been used by RHD, they don’t expect any neighborhood pushback. “It’s really the best of all possible worlds.”

With neighbors in Ogontz and Belfield not backing down in opposition to the Kemble Avenue plan, and at least 3,000 transgendered adults in the city in need of housing, RHD decided to move ahead with Morris Home in another spot rather than face a fight.

Kemble future uncertain

Meanwhile, the fate of the 50-unit Kemble Park Apartments, and the other city program slated to move there, is less clear.

Along with the Morris Home group, RHD had planned to bring 40 seniors, all of whom live with mental health disabilities and need supervision, from a Germantown high-rise building to Kemble Park.

Ali said she understood the Soujourn Program plan for Kemble Avenue was also scratched and was moving instead to a location on Old York Road, but RHD wouldn’t confirm that Monday.

RHD spokesman Kevin Roberts confirmed details of the Morris Home portion but wouldn’t comment on the Sojourn Program aspect at all.

Part of the neighbors’ argument against RHD’s plans for the apartment building concerned building permits secured with a description of the building as apartments, not a treatment facility.

With Morris House no longer in the picture, that argument becomes less clear.

Senior program still possible?

RHD describes the Sojourn Program more as supervised housing for medically fragile people, rather than a treatment program as Morris Home would have been.

A Concerned Community Association, the group which protested the proposals, hired lawyer Yvonne Haskins to appeal the building and zoning permits. She has so far been rebuffed in those efforts.

As of Dec. 20, Haskins was informed by the Department of Licenses and Inspections that RHD intended only “residential dwelling units” for the building, so no review was needed.

Of the current uncertainty over Kemble Park, Haskins said yesterday it was consistent with a lack of communication with the community.

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NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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