Philadelphia City Council members announced the formation of the Kensington Caucus, an initiative promising to focus on addressing the long-standing issues facing residents of one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Quetcy Lozada from District 7; Mark Squilla from District 1; Mike Driscoll from District 6; and Jim Harrity, At-Large; are the council members forming this Kensington Caucus, aiming to increase support for this neighborhood.
Lozada emphasized that it is time to come together and work on a coherent plan to address Kensington’s drug and homelessness issues. “Residents deserve strategic and collaborative teamwork,” the Democratic councilwoman said.
She assured that the group will work to execute the Kensington Marshall Plan, still in development, to determine available resources, providers, delivery methods, and challenges.
Lozada noted that they have been meeting with residents and partners across the Kensington community since last year to gather input for creating this plan.
Meanwhile, Councilman Harrity, who admitted his own struggle with alcohol addiction, stated that the caucus is a way for the council to collaborate with the mayor’s efforts to impact this community.
“We know we can’t arrest our way out of this. The idea is to get these individuals into long-term recovery,” he said, mentioning that up to six months of treatment may be needed to help individuals overcome severe substance abuse. The group will work with municipal and state officials to extend typical 30-day treatment programs.
Harrity added that the caucus efforts will also focus on long-term recovery, with all services grouped together, including rehabilitation, centers, and behavioral health services.
The Kensington Caucus aims to support Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker’s commitment to neighborhood reform. Closing open-air drug markets is one of her goals for her first 100 days in office, and she even appointed Deputy Police Commissioner Pedro Rosario to lead a security plan for the area.
Hope for Replication
Councilman Mark Squilla is hopeful that this approach can be replicated. “What is happening in Kensington is also evident in other communities in Philadelphia. This will give us an example of how to address the issues.”
“It is necessary to gather all these concerns and be able to discuss them to see how they will affect other districts, and that is something we have not done in the past.”
Meanwhile, Councilman Mike Driscoll plans to focus on the transportation aspect of the problem. He wants to ensure that SEPTA stops are clean. “People, when they get on public transportation, should feel safe and comfortable while they travel.”
The coalition has the support of Council President Kenyatta Johnson. “Strategically, they will analyze how they can ensure that the Kensington neighborhood has the type of resource they need, in addition to working in partnership with the Parker administration to advance this plan.”