Elderly tenants in fear of displacement call for Philadelphia leaders to save Brith Sholom House

More than 150 tenants living in an apartment building in West Philadelphia are in fear of losing the place they call home.

Residents of Brith Sholom House rallied outside City Hall alongside advocacy groups and attorneys with the Public Interest Law Center, who is representing the tenant’s council, for the city to save the 12-story, 360-unit apartment tower on Conshohocken Road.

They want the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections to make the needed repairs and to support the Philadelphia Housing Authority, or another owner who can be held accountable, in buying the building.

"We’re in a housing situation where we’re going to be put out very soon. I mean very soon," says Jane Harvey, a 91-year-old tenant.

Tenants say they received a shutoff notice from PGW, temporarily slated for May 31st, and according to the Public Interest Law Center, owners of the building, which is in receivership, have failed to pay gas bills since January 2022. A sheriff’s sale is scheduled for June 4th.

City officials tell FOX 29 in a statement, back in 2019, they filed suit against Brith Sholom in 2019 to compel the owner to remediate the conditions of the building. In September 2023, L&I was called to the site, according to city officials, and identified disturbing conditions that resulted in the issuance of dozens of notices of violation and in excess of 100 code violations. Following another inspection in October 2023, the officials say they filed an emergency motion to further seek compliance by the owner, and the litigation is ongoing.

"Why are our communal spaces locked? Why can’t we have church services anymore? Why can’t we use our lobbies? Why are our mail rooms locked at 5 o’clock? You’re taking the dignity away from the citizens," says Marlene, a 75-year-old tenant. "How do you do this to these people? We have veterans who have gone to war and this is how you treat them?"

Councilmember Curtis Jones spoke at the rally, also calling on the Philadelphia Housing Authority to step in.

In a statement, city officials said, "The City is working with partners such as PHA to explore the possibility of maintaining the property for affordable housing."

FOX 29 reached out to the holding company, and the property management company running operations for the receiver, and are still waiting to hear back.