Trying to Build an “Oasis in the Jungle of North Philly”

Established over a century ago to serve the working poor, Temple University is situated in one of the poorest areas of Philadelphia.  As tuition rises and development expands into the neighborhoods surrounding its campus, Temple, situated in now the second poorest zip code in Philadelphia, is facing tensions with the local communities.  This is the story of Temple’s past, present, and relationships with both its student body, and the community it colonized.

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To many, Monteiro is North Philly

To many in the North Philly community, Dr. Anthony Monteiro represents much more than a college professor. He is an activist, a neighbor, and a symbol of progression in a city plagued by systemic obstacles. Monteiro, a non-tenured track professor in Temple University’s African American Studies Department was fired in January of this year. The termination of Dr. Monteiro’s contract has sparked a student and community movement, not just to get him reinstated, but to form a healthy, honest relationship between Temple’s administration and the community it’s situated in.

A Little Extra Help

Meals on Wheels, an RSVP program run through Klein JCC’s community center in Northeast Philadelphia, is helping hundreds of seniors battling both aging and hunger.  The entire operation, from cooking to packing to delivering is done by volunteers, most over 55 themselves.  Payments based on need, some as low at a few dollars a month, provide some of the most vulnerable Philadelphians with healthy warm meals they would not otherwise have access to.  Although the meals provide sustenance, the program focuses on healthy aging and relationships, giving seniors a friendly visitor when they need it most.   In a city where thousands of its oldest residents are slipping into the shadows of poverty and neglect, the Meals on Wheels program is giving many a little extra help.

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A Broken System

Philadelphia, the fifth-largest city in the nation, is facing an epidemic.

According to the 2013 Census, the average household income in Philadelphia is about $20,000 less than the national average. In 24 of Philadelphia’s 46 zip codes, families go hungry, most with annual household incomes less than $15,000. Philadelphia’s deep poverty rate, defined by households that make less than $8,687 a year, is the highest among the nation’s largest cities.

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Struggling at the Dinner Table

According to U.S. Census information, the areas of North and West Philadelphia with median household annual incomes as low as $8,980 spend significant portions of their income on food and groceries. In the poorest regions, like Northeastern neighborhoods on Allegheny Ave. that have an average income less than $15,000, consumer expenditure on food and groceries can reach $6,074. With nearly half of many household incomes spent on food, families are left with little for rent, utilities, or education costs.

How the Other Third Lives

Just over one third of Philadelphians live in poverty.  Of the ten largest American cities, Philadelphia’s unemployment rate is second only to Detroit.  Within the blocks surrounding Temple University, over 30 percent of households earn a salary of $15,000 or less.

Philadelphia is facing a silent epidemic.  How the Other Third Lives is a project documenting poverty and homelessness in Philadelphia.  Understanding the struggles almost half of Philadelphia’s people, the systemic hindrances they face, and the relationship all Philadelphians, rich and poor, have with each other is vital in exploring the cycle of under-development.  How the Other Third Lives is platform for stories trapped in the silence of poverty.