Philadelphia cuts funding for vacant land reclamation

    This year, more than 300 homeless and formerly homeless people will lose what has become a lifeline. Citing a severe shortage of funds, Philadelphia is cutting nearly $2.5 million in grant money for the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Vacant Land Program in this year’s budget.

    This year, more than 300 homeless and formerly homeless people will lose what has become a lifeline.  Citing a severe shortage of funds, Philadelphia is cutting nearly $2.5 million in grant money for the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Vacant Land Program in this year’s budget.

    PHS doled out the grant money to neighborhood revitalization organizations, which then hired full and part time employees to clean vacant lots throughout the city.

    Penelope Giles runs one one of them: The Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation.  She employs six formerly homeless men to clean overgrown plots of land on a seasonal basis.  Giles says without the grant she won’t be able to afford to hire the men, and that the work simply wouldn’t get done with volunteers.

    “You know, my seasonal workers work every day.  The volunteers, you know, they come in once a month, on a Saturday or something like that, we may do a large project, but no way.  I would not be able to do the amount of work, and I’m doing a tremendous amount of work.”

    Giles says her crew maintains 150 of about 400 lots in the Francisville neighborhood of North Philadelphia.  She says since the group got off the ground two years ago the neighborhood has seen more interest from developers and increased property values.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.