Local leader accused of threatening to bus the homeless to Villanova University

Homelessness has long been a concern in Norristown, Pennsylvania now allegations that a public official threatened to bus the homeless out of town has turned it into a controversy.

Under the shade of trees and tucked back from the Stony Creek, sits a gathering of tents and makeshift wooden homes where forty of Norristown’s homeless live. Among the encampment residents is 34-year-old Draya Lamacchia, she arrived a year ago when she lost her housing in Philadelphia. 

Lamacchia, a mother of three boys under 10-years-old who do not live with her, lives in a tent and fears losing what little she has by being forced out. She is among what Norristown's administrator says are 250 homeless people living in the county drawn here by city services and placing an unfair burden on the community. 

"Norristown has always and will always do its part, but this is a county issue, this is not a Norristown issue," Crandall Jones said. The issue of homelessness in Montgomery County is now reaching a fever pitch after alleged controversial comments made by a county leader.


Stephania Sena, an advocate for the homeless and a teaching fellow at Villanova University’s Law School, says the President of Norristown’s Municipal Council Thomas Lepera told her he wants to give the homeless a bus ride to the University. 

"His intent is to bus people who are unhoused in Norristown to the campus green in front of my office at the law school," Sena said. "I know he denies that I also know he said it to multiple sources."

Lepera, who works for the high-profile Electrical Workers Union, did not answer his phone, or immediately return a text for comment. 

On his Facebook page, while denying he threatened to bus the homeless, Lepera writes "Villanova University with ample grounds, empty dorms all summer long could very well ease Norristown’s immediate homelessness crisis…"

Draya Lamacchia seemed unaware of the controversy. Her focus is a safe home and a little empathy. "Remember", she said. "We are people. we are someone’s mothers, kids, sisters – you know sons, fathers."