Families Live in Tents in Fairhill to Raise Awareness

PHILADELPHIA-(WTXF)-An active protest is growing just days ahead of the Pope's arrival. More families are now living at a tent city in the city's Fairhill neighborhood and they say it's happening because of a big issue that needs to be addressed in Philadelphia.

This tent city on the corner of American and Cumberland has doubled in size. They say they are there for two reason. For one, they have no place to go and secondly to prove a point and raise awareness for the lack of housing.

The city's top two housing officials arrived to Fairhill's tent city offering emergency shelter to the two dozen people who have taken up residence on the streets for the past four days, but that offer came with a resounding no.

Homeless advocate Cheri Honkala organized the tent city to show awareness for the city's homeless problem. For days they've been taking in gifts of food and water-- some even handing over cash donations. But why not take the offer of emergency housing? FOX 29 couldn't get a straight answer.

When FOX 29's Chris O'Connell said, "These people are being offered shelters and you are encouraging not to take it," Cheri said, "Ok that is such a Fox 29 question. Others?"

We did talk to Sierra Brooks who says she was kicked out of a shelter along with her 1-month-old and two other children.

"I got laid off from my job and lost my apartment and I tried to go for help and no one would help me," she told FOX 29.

She's not taking shelter tonight. Instead she wants a permanent home. The very public protest coincidentally comes days before Pope Francis comes to town.

"He has somewhere to sleep at night. He has food to eat every day. He has whatever he needs. We have nothing," Sierra explained.

By nightfall none of homeless took the city's offer of shelter. Instead the group settled in to watch the movie "Frozen" on a donated big screen. The head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority clearly disappointed.

"As I looked around I saw small children and I'm a father, certainly. I am a father would not want my children living under those conditions," said Kelvin Jeremiah with the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

They will be living in these conditions at least for one more night. The group is now threatening to take over vacant PHA homes around the city and simply move these families in starting Friday.