Kemp Says He’ll Seek Housing for Poor
Housing Secretary Jack Kemp toured public housing alternatives Friday and told homeless advocates he wants to be one of them, using federal money and his agency to expand housing projects for the poor.
“I don’t want to spend my time wallowing in poverty, I want to combat it,” Kemp said after touring the Richard Allen Homes, a public housing complex in a drug-infested North Philadelphia neighborhood.
The new housing secretary, a former Republican congressman for New York who is closely identified with conservative “supply-side” economic theory, acknowledged that dealing with homelessness would not be cheap.
Sees ‘Desirable Goals’
“Sure, it takes money, tax money, but it’s aimed at socially desirable goals on which we can reach a consensus on in this country,” he said.
“I think there is a lot of good will today, that people are ready to set aside some of the polemics and get busy and make an important contribution to working on this tragedy, and I plan to be an advocate,” Kemp said.
His two-day visit to Baltimore and Philadelphia was the second in a number of tours he plans across America “to see what’s going on about housing,” he said. Last week he was in Atlanta.
Officials estimate that Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth-largest city, has more than 18,000 abandoned houses and more than 10,000 homeless people.
Kemp’s tour guide, Robert M. Hayes, a national Coalition for the Homeless lawyer, said Kemp “is hearing that federal housing is needed, desperately needed (and) the message we get from him is that he is anxious to help.”
At the Richard Allen Homes, Kemp visited the apartment of Virginia Wilks, 36, president of the tenants’ council.
She told Kemp about vacancies, vandalism, drug trafficking and the lack of security, but she expressed hope that a $7-million grant from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which Kemp heads, will turn things around.
“We are going to take this place back, but we need his support,” she said.
Kemp responded: “It’s yours to take, but it’s more than a federal effort. It’s a state effort, a city effort and also help is needed from the private sector.”
Kemp also visited a home rehabilitated with city help by a non-profit group called Dignity Housing and then rented to a former homeless family, as well as a downtown residence for once-homeless adults.
The downtown center was sold by the city to a nonprofit organization called Bethesda Project, which obtained $1.5 million from public and private sources for renovations.