Montco commissioners demanded a place for the homeless

NORRISTOWN — Speaking to county commissioners last week, Michael Kingsley held up his cell phone with a photo of a man he didn’t know long but who he hopes will leave a lasting impact on Norristown.

“I wanted to briefly introduce you to this gentleman. A sixty-one-year-old man originally from Georgia ended up here in Norristown on his way to New York. He’s been here in Norristown for over a year, homeless, he’s been working four jobs since I’ve known him, over a year, trying to do whatever he can to get back on his feet,” Kingsley said.

“While he was out on the streets, he was stoned by teenagers, shot at with BB guns, teenagers, beaten up, robbed, he lives here on the streets of Norristown. He was found dead at 12:30 a.m. Sunday night at Lafayette (Street) and DeKalb. “I don’t know yet if it was his heart or if he was involved in drugs, they are doing toxicology tests to find out, but he is dead because he had no shelter,” he said.

U the district closed at the end of June now ex Coordinated Homeless Assistance Center on the grounds of Norristown State Hospital along Steriger Street. The center, which contained approximately 50 beds, was the only homeless shelter for single adults age 18 and older in Montgomery County. Times Herald archives. Kingsley, st The head of the Code Blue shelter for the center, was direct in the interrogations of the commissioners August 18 about why they still haven’t found a new place for those in need to live.

Bill England, campaign manager for the Montgomery County Here for Us Coalition, speaks earlier this summer during a rally in Norristown just one day before the Coordinating Homeless Assistance Center closes. (Rachel Ravina – MediaNews Group)

“He died because he had to hide from the violence that is happening on our streets. I’m here to say, why don’t you commissioners set up a shelter for these people? Why did you let CHOC close?” – said Kingsley.

“The closing of CHOC has made things worse and it’s up to you three if anything happens. And I am asking you for this,” he said.

David Morgan of Ambler referred to a count at a point in time through Montgomery County made in January which found more than 500 homeless people in the county, and asked why commissioners decided to continue $415 million justice center but not a new place for the homeless.

“That’s an area that I’m asking the commissioners to really look at, to look at maybe redirecting money from the justice center so that workers can build something that’s good for the community,” he said.

“We’ve been taxed and we just issued bonds this summer and we’re borrowing at a higher interest rate than before. Why not focus our energy on the homeless?” Morgan said.

Thomas Lepera, president of Norristown Municipal Council, who wrote an article in June about CHOC’s pending closure, also spoke during public comment and told commissioners he felt “the last few years have been pretty tough for everybody, no tougher than the homeless.”

“The pandemic and Hurricane Ida. both played an important role in the growing number of people we saw on the streets. But I just want to say that the Norristown council and our commissioners, Ken Lawrence and Val Arkush, have been working very hard over the last few months in a collaborative effort to try to resolve these issues,” he said.

Last week, according to report from WHYY, the Norristown council passed an ordinance that would ban parks from dusk to dawn, an ordinance that first appeared on the council’s agenda in early August and drew criticism for its short notice and lack of a long-term solution. In his comments to commissioners, Lepero said he wanted to “give credit” to those who tried to help before saying he believed any long-term solution would have to be countywide.

“I think this issue is much bigger than just Montgomery County government and Norristown government. It’s going to take all 62 townships, municipalities, districts to try to fight this battle, and I’m here just to say that I’m here to work with you to try to do that,” he said.

Arkush said she was “very sorry” about the death Kingsley mentioned and then responded to Leper’s comments.

“It’s been extremely difficult, as people here who are involved in caring for the homeless know, and we’re working hard to deal with this very difficult problem, which Ida made doubly so when so many families in our county lost their homes,” she said.

“I completely agree with you: this will require everyone who will participate in our district. Many municipalities already have affordable housing in their municipalities, but there are others who do not and others who are talking to us about it now. So we will continue to move forward together and we really value our partnership in working on this,” she said.

The next meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners will be held on September 1 at 10 a.m. in the Commissioners’ Chambers at 425 Swede St. in Noristavan. For more information visit

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