“It’s not just trash that we’re dealing with. You’re talking about biohazardous waste, like syringes and human waste.”

Stephanie Martinez, a Kensington resident, poses near a community garden on Hart Lane street on July 29, 2020. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Stephanie Martinez, community member

Editor’s note: The responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness. We tried to keep the majority of the points that were made, but some parts did need to be cut or rephrased. Phrases, such as “addicts” and “users”, were changed to “people experiencing addiction” and “people who use drugs” to follow Kensington Voice’s ethics of using person-first language.

Does the proposed Kensington Investment Plan represent the community’s current needs or priorities? Is there anything missing?

It does and it doesn’t. It doesn’t have actionable steps, in my opinion. It’s pretty general. 

It’s good that we want to provide treatment for those who have substance abuse issues. And it’s just like, well, what happens to those who are not ready? Little things like that. It’s just like, okay, that’s great for those who are ready, but what do we do with the ones who are not?

Do you agree or disagree with the proposals under the “public safety strategy and expanded access to treatment” section and the “community cleaning and sanitation” section? Thoughts?

For the first section, I agree with it, but it’s vague. 

As far as the police district, I don’t really see anything that mentions the district attorney. I don’t see how a new police district within Kensington can truly work if we don’t have that partnership with the district attorney. So I don’t see that really working. 

Being here, just at the heart of it on a day to day basis, we do see police activity and they do drive by. But, literally the minute that they’re gone, the drug activity continues. So it’s really just holding them accountable as far as the [people who deal drugs] and [people who use drugs]. In order to do so, we’ve talked to police officers who say, “Well, we can’t arrest them. We can’t really do anything.” So, it’s kind of counterintuitive to have the police there if they can’t do anything. 

I don’t agree with the second section, community cleaning and sanitation at all. It’s not just trash that we’re dealing with. You’re talking about biohazardous waste, like syringes and human waste. At the end of the day, [residents] don’t have that training to be able to handle those things. Before COVID-19, we were dealing with Hepatitis A. So, it’s too much to put on the residents.

And I don’t agree with the 4-yard dumpsters. Having dumpsters within the community and allowing us to put large trash cans in front of our houses allows people to do illegal dumping. And it’ll just create more rodent infestation. 

The plan should be to hire a third party vendor or third party company to come out one to two times a week, in addition to our trash pickups, and holding the property owners accountable. 

Under the “restorative community investment for safety and quality of life” section, which issues do you feel should receive priority funding?

The vacant and blighted property, in my opinion, should receive priority funding first. Then repairs and improvements for homeowners or just housing in general.

Do you agree or disagree that adding a fully-staffed police district or Police Service Area (PSA) will help police officers respond to underserved parts of Kensington?

I think it will. On Frankford Avenue and Somerset Street, let’s say two and a half weeks ago, if you were to drive by you would see a lot of drug activity, both [people who use drugs] and [people who deal drugs]. Now, this would be the second week. The owner or the property manager decided to hire an outside company of armed security guards or armed officers. They’re armed. And, because they’ve been in place, you don’t see one [person who uses drugs] hanging out there or one [person who deals drugs.] 

If we were to have our own police district, it would work if they were to patrol the area and the neighborhood and, again, if they’re able to actually do something. 

Editor’s note: The status of the proposed Kensington Police Special Services District is mentioned in the city’s Restore Kensington Action Plan. You can read more about that here.

What should be a part of the city’s treatment options to aid people experiencing addiction?

I don’t know if this is part of it, but I would definitely say no to safe injection sites [also known as overdose prevention sites]. I personally worked with a gentleman [experiencing addiction], once upon a time. And I think really it’s just based on the person. If they want help, they will get that help. But we should make resources available to them on a consistent basis — kind of pushing resources in their faces where it’s like, if you need help, we’re here. 

Honestly, I don’t know what really truly goes into the treatment options. I’ve just never really looked into it. But I think just them knowing that there are options and there is help, really just would make a difference to them. 

The city should also invest in helping residents install their own security cameras, getting those security cameras linked to the police department, and installing signs throughout the neighborhood that state that there are security cameras linked to the police department.

And then utilizing the empty lots that we have within the neighborhood. I’ve tried myself to acquire an empty lot that’s owned by the Philadelphia Land Bank, and they make you go through hoops. I think it should have priority for residents so that we can have community gardens and safe spaces for the kids.

Another thing that’s very important is holding property owners who abandoned their property accountable. 

Editor’s note: A “safe injection site” is not part of the Restorative Investment Plan for Kensington Residents. Safehouse, the privately-funded nonprofit that is trying to establish an overdose prevention site in Philadelphia is not funded by the city. To read more about Safehouse, click here.


Editors: Zari Tarzona, Claire Wolters, Siani Colón / Designer: Henry Savage / Translator: Somlmaira Valerio

What did you think about this story? Send a note to editors@kensingtonvoice.com, and we’ll consider publishing it in our Voices section. You can also tell us what you think in person at our neighborhood events.

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