By Cherri Gregg

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A group of homeless families, some with children as young as one-month-old, have set up a “tent city” in North Philadelphia. They’re using the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia to raise awareness about homelessness in the city.

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Cherri: Why did you decide to come out here?

Sierra: “Because I had no where else to go and all the shelters turned me down.”

(credit: Cherri Gregg)

(credit: Cherri Gregg)

It’s been three days since Sierra Brooks and her 12, three and one-month old children moved into a tent at North American and Cumberland in Kensington. She’s living alongside five other families all with no place to go.

People here say they’ve tried shelters but they’re full. Now neighbors are pitching in.

“I’ve never seen something like this in my entire life,” said a neighbor.

“These kids need a home. They need food, they need clothes, they need diapers,” says Maria Fuentes, with tears in her eyes. She is one of scores of the volunteers that dropped off water, food and supplies for the families.

“This could be me,” she says, “I used to be homeless when I lived in New York– it breaks my heart. I even offered to let one of the kids stay with me.”

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“This is actually the ‘Church of the Poor,'” says Sheri Honkala who runs the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. The group organized the campsite and they want the Philadelphia Housing Authority to move the families into vacant housing. Honkala is hoping the impending Pope visit can provide the leverage they need to raise awareness about the plight of these families and so many more.”

“We live in a city that hosts the Pope and conventions, but we can’t house our people,” she says.


As for what they’d do if no housing is located:

“We’ll intend to be the welcoming committee for the Pope.”

The Philadelphia Housing Authority says it is not issuing keys or vouchers to the six families. PHA officials along with the Office of Supportive Housing did visit with the families in the area Thursday evening. They add that the  Office of Supportive Housing is able to assist any of the families who wanted shelter.

KYW Newsradio also spoke with the office of Councilwoman Maria Quiones-Sanchez and a spokesperson says her office is working with PHA to find a resolution for the families.

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CBS 3’s Rahel Solomon and KYW Newsradio’s Dan Wing contributed to this report.