A letter to Mission First Housing Group

On Friday, we sent the following letter to Mark Dietcher, Director of Business Development at Mission First Housing Group. 

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Dear Mr Deitcher,

Greetings from Spruce Hill, where many neighbors are concerned about the choices that Mission First Housing Group has made with regards to the Arvilla apartment building at 4537-39 Osage.

We’ve asked Rachel Garland at Community Legal Services to express our desire to meet face to face to discuss these concerns. 

Because she has apparently not received a response from you, we are now reaching out directly to request a meeting. We are aware that you will be attending SCHA’s meeting on the 17th to address the community, and we will be in attendance. However, we are concerned that this meeting will not address the concerns of  the Arvilla residents and the community. 

In order to properly address the concerns of the residents and the community, Mission First should be present at a meeting, open to the press, which accommodates the schedule of any building residents interested in attending. We are happy to organize and coordinate this meeting through this email account or through block captain JJ Tiziou: 267-251-5464 / jj@jjtiziou.net

This meeting will no doubt be challenging to schedule amidst the holidays. Residents, neighbors, and Councilwoman Blackwell’s representatives are available this coming Tuesday after 3:30pm.During this meeting we would like to discuss the following demands:

  • That the lease terminations for Arvilla residents be immediately rescinded. This is in keeping with Mission First’s stated mission to provide sustainable housing, and the parent organization’s mission of developing permanent housing.
  • That the current residents’ most pressing needs be met. These include needs such as working heat and running water.
  • That, if the building is sold, it be transferred to another organization that will maintain it as affordable housing and prioritize the current residents’ needs.

We understand that proper upkeep of the Arvilla building will be burdensome with regards to some of your other ambitious plans for new development. However, these not-yet inhabited new developments cannot be prioritized at the expense of the lives of residents already in your care.

We are shocked that residents were only given the bare minimum legally required notice to move out. A young single mother with three children was invited to move into the building just six months ago, when the sale of this building was already planned. Many of the residents’ are living with poor heat and persistent pest problems. And just this morning, we were dismayed by the disrespectful way in which one of your prospective buyers treated the building residents. 

We would expect this from a for-profit landlord, but not from a non-profit organization with a mission such as yours.

You now have an opportunity to stop and reflect on not just the what, but the how of your choices. A different outcome is possible, wherein the building can be handed off to another organization, affordable housing can be preserved in Spruce Hill, and residents can remain part of our community.

If you are not able to attend a meeting and address our demands, we trust that you will uphold your mission to serve our community’s most vulnerable residents, and immediately rescind the lease terminations and begin the hard work of moving together in this conversation.

We are committed to supporting you in finding a solution that puts your mission first, and look forward to your response.Sincerely,

Arvilla Organizing Committee, 

JJ Tiziou (Block Captain)
Timothy Crawford (Arvilla Resident)
Aya Kaufmann Tammer Ibrahim, John Bergen, and the rest of our ever growing group of concerned neighbors.

CC:
Rachel Garland, Community Legal Services
Melissa Long, Deputy Director Division of Housing and Community Development
Anne Fadullon, Director of Planning & Development
Martin Cabry, Councilwoman Blackwell’s office
Penni Roberts, Councilwoman Blackwell’s office
Charlene Samuels, Councilwoman Gym’s office
Gabriela Raczka, Councilwoman Reynolds Brown’s office
Samantha Melamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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As of yet, we’ve received no response.

Meanwhile, we’re excited about other resources joining our efforts to support the Arvilla residents. 

If you’d like to get involved, make sure to get on the email list, and stay tuned for more action opportunities including:

Spruce Hill Community Association’s zoning meeting on Monday Dec 17th at 7pm. (You can meet us at the Arvilla at 6:30pm to walk over together to Spruce Hill’s space, which is at 257 South 45th St.)  

Representatives from Mission First will be on hand to address community concerns, and we want to make sure to have a good turnout to ask them the hard questions about how they’ve handled the Arvilla. Please spread the word.

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