My name is Emma; I was born here in Philadelphia and grew up mostly in the Wynnefield section of the city. I grew up on a block where everyone knew everyone. It was a working class neighborhood and the American dream was alive and well. I now live in South Philly and I work in North Philly at the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP helps low income families with heating expenses and makes referrals to the city for individuals who need basic system repair assistance.
I spend a lot of my free time wandering all over the city, this city that holds some of my dearest memories, the city that I love.
The city has changed over the years, sometimes for the better and sometimes not so much. There are new houses coming up in old neighborhoods that changes how much it costs to live there. As a renter, I can tell you that it is almost impossible to find decent affordable housing. I have dealt with landlords who weren’t legal, who would not keep up repairs on the property, but whose prices were reasonable. Then when I would find a decent property, the rent would be almost double in price. There shouldn’t be such a disparity in pricing for decent housing in this city. Decent, affordable housing needs to be treated as a right and not a privilege.
Working at LIHEAP I hear stories everyday about the hardships people are having with housing. Recently, I spoke to a client that is 97 years young who worked hard all of her life. She married, raised 3 children and had done her best to provide for her family. She buried her husband almost 32 years ago, and buried her last child 8 months ago- he was her caregiver. She is legally blind, it’s winter and her heater is broken.
When she came to LIHEAP for assistance, I had to warn her to be sure to answer the phone when the city agency calls because they will only call you once. If you do not answer, you will miss your opportunity for assistance. Why? The city has such a high demand for assistance that they do not have the funding to keep calling to confirm that someone will be home before they come out to evaluate if they can fix the heater. If you don’t answer, you have to come back to LIHEAP to start the process all over again.
Having to explain these policies to a person in dire need is heartbreaking to say the least. We need to elected officials that make policies that meet the needs of low-income families in Philadelphia. No one, especially our elders should have to suffer this way.
I will be attending People’s University to learn more about the candidates, who’s running and how I can influence them to fight for real people having a hard time, like my 97 year old client. I am also attending to learn what can be done to prevent situations like this from continuing to be the norm. I look forward to learning more about upcoming elections and why they matter and what I can do as a registered voter to ensure that the candidate that I vote for will benefit my community and its interests. I will gain all this knowledge at People’s University and more and having fun at that!
I can’t do this alone. I need everyone who cares where decisions get made on land and housing to join me.
If that person is you, I look forward to seeing you at People’s University. You can register at http://peoples_university.eventbrite.com.
The next workshop is next week February, 11th, so don’t wait to register.
See you there!