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Deacon the Beacon Debates: A NIMBY Battle Caught on Tape

Recently we mentioned the battle waged by Frankford community members against yet another recovery house planning to locate in the neighborhood. Frankford already has a disproportionate number of properties that offer housing to former substance abusers who are post-treatment and need a place to live, and as one resident said when handed a protest flier recently, "Frankford is one big rehab."

At last week's Northwood Civic Association meeting, guest Deacon Lamont E. Purnell, president of Innovative Treatment Alternatives, answered questions about his plan for 4834 Penn Street, which he clarified would not be another rehab for the neighborhood to contend with. Instead, it would be a Personal Care Home (PCH), to be licensed by the state, which is indeed a horse of a different color.

Now, for a little out-of-meeting clarification: The people in PCH's are generally elderly people or people with disabilities (mental or physical) who don't have a lot of money and whose relatives can't afford a nursing facility. Those relatives often choose a PCH after researching at a few different ones, but as they're not federally regulated or monitored by city agencies, and as the Department of Public Welfare does only standard reviews, it's a matter of guesswork to determine which are the best.

PCH's are not entitled to provide medication or nursing, only basic hygiene assistance, which sets them apart from nursing homes. The individual who runs a PCH doesn't need to have any particular degree or skill set, just a willingness to help. There are great PCH's in Philadelphia. There are also awful PCH's that take advantage of the fact that the people aren't entirely compos mentis.

Back to the meeting. Purnell seemed a little fuzzy on some of the details of his PCH proposal, and residents did not spare him an inquisition. The building at that address is approved for 11 units, said one interrogator, but Purnell said he planned to have 24 residents "probably." The interrogator spoke for the room when he said they were adamantly opposed to his PCH concept, as they were to his earlier proposed rehab, but if he wanted to return with a proposal for an 11 unit use of the property, they'd be happy to listen.

As an ancillary note, we feel we'd be remiss if we didn't tell you that Purnell also goes by Deacon the Beacon as an R&B and gospel musician and was once a replacement with the Elgins. Maybe at the next civic association meeting in August, he should sing about his plans instead.

· Changes to Frankford boarding house aren't enough to appease neighbors [Inquirer]
· NIMBY Alert: New Frankford Rehab [CPHI]