KELVIN JEREMIAH: New PHA Director Brings Major Changes

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Over 80,000 men, women and children know the Philadelphia Housing Authority as their landlord. There are also 100,000 more clamoring at its doors for the chance to enjoy the decent, safe housing provided by the Authority.

To that world of subsidized housing, dramatic change has come and it is being felt everywhere there is a rental site operated by the agency. It can be seen in the fact for the first time in years, their landlord is looking to add to its police force, an important crime deterrent that had been allowed to attrition down to just 28, making it almost nonexistent in the sprawling world that was their jurisdiction. Change means their police force will be more than doubled when the Philadelphia Housing Authority holds its first Police Job Force Thursday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1800 S. 32nd Street.

Making and demanding the changes is a newcomer at the helm of the Authority. He’s 39-year-old Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s interim executive director.

He can be forgiven for being another import to head the Authority. He was recruited by two locals with a sterling history steeped in what housing authorities need: Estelle Richman and his popular predecessor Mike Kelly. It is obvious Jeremiah knows what has to be done. He understands the continued need, started by Kelly, to change the culture of entitlement, extravagance of staff, the “country club” attitude of some tenant leaders; to end the corruption that had crept into the system; and the need to return to the main mission of the Authority, which is to provide decent housing to those in need.

He was New York City’s Housing Authority Inspector General. In that role, his investigations of tenants, employees and contractors, as well as participants of the Housing Choice Voucher program, resulted in more than 500 arrests and 200 criminal referrals to state and federal prosecutors. Those arrested had cost the New York City Housing Authority over $5 million. Through his efforts, $3 million was collected in restitution and judgments were obtained of more than $2 million. In order to fund the new hires for PHAPD, Jeremiah is overseeing the cutting of a portion of its spending on private security contracts by up to $6 million.

The funding for new police officers supplements other planned initiatives that are part of a broader safety and security plan, which includes an $8.5 million investment for closed circuit television systems and layered building-access controls.

During the 1990s, PHAPD was the fourth-largest police department in Pennsylvania. However, by 2007, the department began to decline from a force of approximately 300 officers to its current force of only 28 sworn personnel, due to funding challenges.

Other changes pushed by Jeremiah will continue to be felt and physically seen throughout all the developments and scattered sites by PHA residents. PHA Staffs have learned there are new rules and they are stringent.

One key area is how they spent PHA money when it came to expense policies. No longer is anything taken for granted. Expense requests are no longer automatically granted. Under Jeremiah, PHA has rebuilt its internal capacity to handle legal matters, with the result HUD closed eight of the 10 outstanding findings. PHA has provided to HUD all of the requisite information and documents, for HUD to use to determine whether PHA will have to reimburse HUD $30.5 million for payments made for external legal services.

Jeremiah has moved to clean up the liens imposed upon some of its properties by the City’s Dept. of Licenses & Inspections which totaled more than $9 million. He’s come to an agreement that reduces that figure to $6 million, saving PHA $3 million.

PHA has hired a Deputy General Counsel with the directive he makes sense of PHA’s procurement, contracting and payments processes consistent with applicable law and regulations.

Jeremiah understands PHA still needs to augment the needs of its resident families. Over 5,000 book bags and school supplies have been given to its student population.

PHA has established a 501(c)(3) organization, Philly-SEEDS, that allows the agency to begin philanthropic activities aimed at building outside support of PHA’s resident-services programs and initiatives. The organization will focus on Self-Sufficiency, Empowerment, Employment and Direct Services. Philly-SEEDS will be a component unit of PHA, and as such, will appoint its board, which will include PHA residents, staff and community leaders.

Jeremiah is promoting a Quality of Life Task Force comprised of PHA residents, staff, and external partner, committed to finding new and innovative ways to improve the quality of life for residents and reduce the likelihood and incidence of crime at PHA properties.

Jeremiah has also set an aggressive goal of creating 6,000 new affordable-housing units through partnerships with public, private, nonprofit, and publicly-minded organizations.  Jeremiah sees PHA’s priority to serve “at-risk” populations, including veterans, the homeless, persons with disabilities, and youth aging out of foster care, among others. The agency will also seek to develop locations that give residents easy access to transportation, education, health care, and other services, also known as “access to opportunity.”

PHA has lowered the aggregate financial impact of provisional employees by eliminating their fringe payments of $13 million per year.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority has set a goal of creating 6,000 new affordable-housing units through partnerships with public, private, nonprofit, and publicly minded organizations. Jeremiah sees PHA’s priority to serve “at-risk” populations, including veterans, the homeless, persons with disabilities, and youth aging out of foster care, among others. The agency will also seek locations that give residents easy access to transportation, education, health care, and other services, also known as “access to opportunity.”

Jeremiah strongly believes living in PHA housing is not a permanent entitlement. “We need to enable families to become more income-sufficient, and to understand they need to move up and out to make room for others more needy.” With that in mind, PHA is signing a new agreement with the Building & Construction Trades Council to establish the STEP-UP Apprenticeship program. PHA is also working with the University of Pennsylvania and other key employers to develop a new job pipeline model to operate out of its Workforce Development Center.

Jeremiah’s emphasis over resident needs vs. employee perks has seen catering contracts reduced and the employees’ $5,000 mortgage- assis­tance program eliminated, as well as their $5,000 dependent-care subsidy. Over 200 employees have seen their agency car take-home privileges gone – now only 19 can do this.

PHA has hosted the first-ever PHA Scholars event, honoring students with high scholastic achievements and those that have improved over the academic year with a weekend college visit to Cheyney University. The two-day event served as a reward program for honor students and an introduction to higher education.

Jeremiah’s commitment to his job is obvious. He has moved his family into Northwest Philadelphia and has made the city their home. He sees his key responsibility is “to repair a broken structure, to end the climate of corruption that was allowed to grow, and to enable our residents to move forward through opportunities to gain employment with an end to their dependency on public housing.”­

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4 Responses to KELVIN JEREMIAH: New PHA Director Brings Major Changes

  1. I need your help please. I am living with black mold, mouse holes, roof falling in & other unhealthy conditions. I have chronic asthma, so does my oldest daughter & my youngest daughter is having a baby in August. We all are sick in this apartment. My manager is nasty in her demeanor. I don’t know what else to do. I live in Bartram Village on Lindbergh. I have photos of these conditions. I have doctor’s notes from my doctor, my daughter’s doctor & the social workers at Jefferson. My manager said she’s not putting my transfer through as an emergency. I have to be moved ASAP. I suffer wwith headaches. I’m sickly, please help me.

    Nicole Culmer
    July 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm

  2. hey uncle kelvin,

    it’s Anderson, just leaving an comment so that you can get my e-mail so we can talk.

    i would like to say thank for everything you are doing, link me on outlook.com

    Anderson Peters
    July 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm

  3. Dear Mr. Peters,

    You are communicating with the website of a newspaper. We are not your uncle.

    –The Editors
    Philadelphia Public Record

    editor @pr
    July 17, 2014 at 9:46 am

  4. PHA IS A JOKE I HAVE BEEN LIVING IN MANTUA HOUSING SITE FOR FIVE YEARS AND OF THOSE FIVE YEARS THE PERSON THAT LIVES UNDER ME HAS HARRASSED, THREATED AND EVEN TRIED STABBING MY DAUGHTER AND MYSELF. I HAVE HER ON VIDEO TRYING TO ENTER MY UNIT TO CAUSE HARM. I REACHED OUT TO ALMOST EVERYONE IN HOUSING, POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND PHA POLICE, STATE REPS, CONGRESS AND NOTHING. I WAS TOLD THAT THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO EXPIDITE MY TRANSFER AND HAVE DONE NOTHING WHILE THIS PERSON STILL HARRASSES ME, MAKES THREATS AND SAYS SHE’S GOING TO SHOOT/STAB MY KIDS WHEN THEY ARE OUTSIDE PLAYING.

    Schrita
    August 18, 2016 at 1:26 pm

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