Kemble Avenue at-risk housing proposal nixed

Resources for Human Development has pulled out of a controversial plan to create supervised housing for two at-risk groups at the Kemble Park Apartments, NewsWorks has learned.

The move by RHD, a non-profit providing human services and housing, would put to rest a dispute that has been simmering for a year in the neighborhoods around 5701 Kemble Ave. in Ogontz, near West Oak Lane.

The company, with the support of city officials, was planning to bring formerly homeless transgendered people and a group of elderly mental-health patients to the Kemble Park Apartments.

A source of contention

Neighbors have protested the plan, saying the project was pushed in under their noses in a deal struck by former Eighth District City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, and that zoning permits issued for the work weren’t based on the actual use of the 50-unit building.

On Friday, representatives of several city departments, including the Department of Health, Licenses and Inspections and City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ office gathered to discuss the next steps. There, it was revealed that RHD was abandoning its pursuit of the Kemble Park project, said Joe Corrigan, spokesman for Bass. They also confirmed that with RHD officials, he said.

Neither RHD nore Sade Ali, deputy commissioner in the city’s Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services office, who helped create the Morris Home and was overseeing the Kemble Park project, immediately responded to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Bass backed neighbors

The dispute over Kemble Park predated Bass taking office in January, but she took a position of supporting the neighbors who were arguing the housing plan was foisted on them with after-the-fact community involvement.

Kemble Park would have been a first-of-its kind in the city, housing two programs: The Morris Home, a transitional apartment facility for formerly homeless transgendered and gender-variant people; and the Sojourn Program, in which 40 seniors with mental-health and age-related issues would move from an apartment building in Germantown.

In previous interviews, Ali noted the two groups Kemble Park would house are part of at-risk, protected populations which the city is legally bound to serve.

Neighbors, led by the group A Concerned Community Organization, held protests and voiced opposition at several public meetings, but those took place after work on the project was already underway.

Attorney Yvonne Haskins, who has been working for ACCA in seeking to appeal city building permits on the project, maintained that RHD had misrepresented the intended actual use for Kemble Park as an in-patient treatment facility, not an apartment building.

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