Sheriff Jewell Williams Encourages Residents to Take Advantage of Financial Assistance Programs for Home Repairs

Spring has finally arrived and I know many are preparing to do urgent home repairs and cleanup after an extremely harsh winter.

Some will have to invest sizeable dollars in major repairs involving roofs, sidewalks, and even the removal of trees and fallen fences.

For those already economically challenged to keep up with their mortgages, there are several programs available to help ease the financial burden of putting your home back in shape.

The Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, for example, has a Basic Systems Repair Program that provides free repairs to “the electrical, plumbing and heating systems of owner-occupied homes in Philadelphia,” as well as “free replacement of a house’s roof if major interior damage such as a collapsing ceiling is evident”.

Certain income restrictions and other requirements regarding residency must be met, but the program is certainly worth exploring, especially if you are a senior living on a fixed income.

Also, the City’s Office of Supportive Housing has a “Rapid Re-Housing” program that “may include cash assistance with rent, utilities and security deposits to”.

Another great resource is the Save Your Home Philly Hotline at (215) 334-4663, that sets you up with a housing counselor if your home is in default.  This is the first step to applying for possible assistance from the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, commonly known as HEMAP.

We are also working on putting together a resource page on our web site that lists numerous agencies and programs that may help you not only save your home, but improve it as well and possibly increase its value.

As the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County, I have directed my staff to increase the number of workshops and seminars we conduct in the community, and to continue with our twice monthly classes on How To Purchase Property At A Sheriff’s Sale conducted in English and Spanish at 100 S. Broad Street.

Finally, I look forward to visiting individual blocks and neighborhoods through the fall as part of our support of the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee and the hundreds of individuals who work so diligently to maintain not only their property, but the community as a whole.

Cold, Snowy February

This winter has already become one of the most challenging I can remember.

Cold, snow, rain, wind, and even short spells of temperatures over 50-degress has also made it one of the most unpredictable seasons on record.

For many, that also translates into broken water pipes, leaky roofs, fallen trees and all sorts of unexpected hurdles in regards to damage and repairs that may, or may not be covered by insurance.

This can be an extra burden on those already struggling to keep up mortgage payments or stay on track with modified payment plans.

With that in mind I encourage you to stay abreast of available services and resources for those in financial distress and are on the verge of missing one or more mortgage payments.

Such organizations as the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency or the Philadelphia Unemployment Project offer useful tips and information that may help you in a bind.

Meanwhile, I also wanted to recognize that February is Black History Month, a special time to celebrate and appreciate the accomplishments of countless of our American brothers and sisters who have enhanced the quality and greatness of this wonderful nation.

I recently had the pleasure and honor of placing a wreath at the Liberty Bell in conjunction with the National Freedom Association in recognition of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Joining me in the ceremony was Carolyn V. Jordan, the great granddaughter of Richard R. Wright, Sr., founder of the National Freedom Day Association, and father of Richard N. Wright whose world acclaimed novels include “Black Boy,”  “Native Son” and “Uncle Tom’s Children”. 

I was also the keynote speaker at the event and sincerely appreciated the presence of so many young people who participated.

So, as February continues to unwind with bouts of cold and snow, I hope the cultural warmth of the month enfolds you and keep us all mindful of the importance of our youth and how any rise to greatness depends heavily on the consistency of house and home.

Job Opportunities as a Deputy Sheriff

The Philadelphia Sheriff is seeking new recruits for Deputy Sheriff Officers positions.  Applications will be accepted between January 20th and Feburary 7th, 2014.

The application process for this position will be open to any person in Pennsylvania who has received ACT 11, ACT 120 or State Police Certified training within the past three years.

UPDATE: The registration period is now closed.

Sheriff Jewell Williams Looks Forward to an Even More Efficient and Professional Sheriff’s Office in 2014

As I enter my third year as Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County I am encouraged by the successes of the past two years, and looking forward to even more positive changes to the office in 2014.

Last year was an especially busy one as we began our much anticipated transition from a system that depended mostly on the physical filing of papers and forms, to a new computer system designed specifically for our needs that will provide unprecedented efficiency and access.

We also rolled out our interactive web site and began sharing information on everything from real estate listings, to signing up for our ongoing workshops on How To Buy at a Sheriff’s Sale.

The latest figures for the site show about a million visits last year, and it will soon contain even more updates on process and procedures as well as links to other pertinent information and resources.

We’ve also returned close to $1 million owed to those whose homes sold for more than the debt on the property, and have added an extra day of sale per month to accommodate the demands of the court.Our new Bike Patrol Unit is putting on lots of miles as it patrols the perimeter of the Criminal Justice Center, and the three dogs that make up our first K-9 unit will be graduating soon and placed on regular duty to sniff out bombs and illegal drugs.

Our responsibilities are also expanding in 2014 to include the overall security of the newly built Juvenile Justice Center at 15th and Arch Streets that is scheduled to open in June.

This has created a need for more Deputy Sheriff Officers and from January 20th to February 7th, 2014, the application process for that position will be open to any person in Pennsylvania who has received ACT 11, ACT 120 or State Police Certified training within the past three years.

Meanwhile, thank you for your support and patience as we continue to make improvements and retool the Office of the Sheriff City and County of Philadelphia to be more efficient, transparent, and professional.

Finally, I wish everyone a wonderful New Year full of opportunities and progress.

Sheriff Jewel Williams Wishes All a Happy, Safe, and Vigilant Holiday Season

Philadelphia is an aesthetically pleasing city throughout the year, and the holiday season between November and January makes it even more pleasing to the eyes.

Unfortunately, it is also the time of the year when the scam artists, flimflam opportunists, and generally dishonest people trying to get money illegally from honest folks also seem to come out in droves.

At the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County, we regularly receive inquiries during the holidays from people who have been called by a creditor claiming the sheriff’s office has a warrant out for them and will come to arrest them if they don’t pay a delinquent debt.

These company’s and/or individuals usually go by official sounding names like Legal Recovery Services, which is an organization mentioned by a number of surrounding counties as being responsible for defrauding many individuals by using the “warrant” line to force you to give them money.

A common approach is to claim that someone has taken out an online loan in your name that has gone into default and you must pay up or face arrest from the sheriff.

First and foremost, if you hear that, you know it’s a lie.

The Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County does not telegraph the fact we have a warrant out for an individual, and we would never call up the individual to tell them we have a warrant. We would simply show up at the door.

Also, my office has no relationship whatsoever with creditors of any sort, especially when it comes to the enforcement of a non-court ordered debt.

Or, there are others who claim to have some special access to the sheriff’s office that allows them to get funds owed to an individual from a sheriff’s sale much faster than if the individual went through the process themselves . . . but you must pay them an often hefty upfront fee for the service.

I can assure you there is no “special access” or preferential treatment given any person making a claim on funds they feel are owed to them from a sheriff’s sale. The process is a simple one and generally not complicated if all the proper identification and paperwork is presented.

So, I encourage you to enjoy this holiday season, but also be wary of those who may be trying to become a Grinch to your good feelings by getting you to worry over something that is a lie, and pay to settle a problem that doesn’t even exist. 

Public Notice

To improve safety and efficiency of Sheriff's sales, starting with 2014 February Sheriff's Sales, the Sheriff will no longer accept cash at any mortgage foreclosure or tax sale.  Deposits on purchased properties must be paid by money order, certified bank checks, cashier's check or attorney's checks.  We will not accept personal checks.

In the event the buyer does not have the exact denomination in checks to make a deposit, the excess amount paid will be credited toward the balance due at settlement.

Any suggestions or comments regarding these regulations should be addressed to Richard Tyer of the Sheriff's Real Estate Department.

Sheriff Jewell Williams Offers a Personal Reflection on National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and a great time to make us all more aware of this challenging disease that is closely connected to the things we eat.

Million of Americans—including me—now take on the daily routine of battling to keep our blood sugar at an acceptable level while trying to work, take care of family, make decisions and simply live a decent quality of life.

I revealed that I have diabetes earlier this month on Election Day during a radio program on WURD-AM.

The looks on the faces of several others also sitting at the interviewers table ranged from surprise, to nods of sympathy and stern looks of concern.

It is no secret that diabetes can be managed through proper medication, diet and exercise, but too often those who need such information are the ones who tend to get it least, or too late, and Latinos and African Americans bear the brunt of those afflicted with the disease

According to the American Diabetes Association, a little over 25 million Americans currently have the disease, but only 18.8 million have been diagnosed which means 7 million are walking around with a debilitating disease that has the potential to take their life.

My mother, father, and brother have already succumbed to diabetes so I personally know the importance of treating it as early as possible, and the emotional havoc it leaves behind when a loved one is taken by the disease.

This year’s Diabetes Awareness Month is themed “A Family Affair”, because the effects of diabetes are felt by family members, loved ones, and even co-workers who will have to cover for, or take over for someone who has been hospitalized because of complications from the disease.

For many, unfortunately, the loss of a working member of a household—especially if he or she is the only source of income—can be catastrophic because it starts a chain of  events that can lead to the mortgage not being paid and the home eventually lost to a sheriff’s sale.

In order to prevent such a scenario, you must pay close attention to your health and the health of those in your household. 

If you suspect you have diabetes (an estimated 79 million have Type-2 Diabetes, which is often referred to as pre-diabetes) you should see your doctor immediately and start a regimen of medication (if necessary) that also includes diet and exercise.

I would also strongly suggest you try to create a plan that will cover your mortgage should you become sick, and find as many resources as possible to provide information and referrals to help you.

A good place to start would be the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org) which can steer you to local organizations that may be able to help your particular situation, as well as point you to other support services.

I also encourage you to not take this disease lightly and remember that it’s affects go way beyond one person, and can include everything from losing a home, to losing a family member.

Staff Inspector Washington participates in Cops and Kids of Color panel

Staff Inspector Paris Washington of the Office of the Philadelphia Sheriff was a participant in a panel on Cops and Kids of Color at the 120 Annual International Conference held in Philadelphia.

“The panel focused on the disproportionate number of minority youth negatively interacting with law enforcement officials that result in arrest and how to reduce it,” said Washington.

More than 13,000 attended the five-day Conference and Law Enforcement Education and Technology Exposition held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center including Police Chiefs, CEO’s, federal officials and law enforcement officials.

Staff Inspector Washington joined the Office of the Sheriff in 1992 and has since earned numerous certifications and awards and promotions.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police serves as the professional voice of law enforcement addressing cutting edge issues confronting law enforcement though advocacy, programs and research, as well as training and other professional services. IACP is a comprehensive professional organization that supports the law enforcement leaders of today and develops the leaders of tomorrow.   

Remembering Dr. Walter P. Lomax, Jr.: A Man of Vision and Purpose

In the more than 30 years I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Walter P. Lomax. Jr., I don’t recall ever seeing him without a smile and a readiness to shake your hand that was always sincere and warm.

Our pleasantries always included a hug and chat about family and mutual friends, as well as political issues and the major community concern of the moment.

His wife, Beverly, was almost always at his side, or someplace close, and I would make it a point to tip my hat (whether I had one on or not) in respect, my personal greeting for one of the most gracious people I’ve ever known.

His recent death has left a void in the leadership of Philadelphia that will never be filed with the type of honesty, perseverance, compassion, intelligence and dignity that fit Dr. Lomax like a well-tailored suit.

He was indeed a special man with the ability to make anyone he encountered feel special as well.

After purchasing WURD, a local talk radio station, and under the guidance of his daughter Sara, it too began to reflect the uniqueness of its owner by delving deep into community issues and concerns and becoming a true voice for the African American community.

I have spoken on the radio station countless times, most recently at a political gathering in West Oak Lane, and even though Dr. Lomax was not there, his presence was felt in the form of a remote set up from WURD. Like him, the discussions I had during that interview were engaging, progressive, and all about community.

Dr. Lomax die at the young age of 81.

My condolences to his family, and I thank them for sharing this great man, whose very full and unselfish life inspired many to be committed to service and improving the lives of others at every opportunity. 

Sheriff Jewell Williams Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and nearly 20 years since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

There have been many improvements and changes in response to domestic violence in general and specifically violence against women.

According to President Barak Obama, who has issued a formal proclamation recognizing the month as a time of reflection and continued awareness: “ . . . our Nation’s response to domestic violence has greatly improved.  What was too often seen as a private matter best hidden behind closed doors is now an established issue of national concern.”

That “concern” is also shared here at the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.

Study after study has revealed the strong connection between domestic abuse and homelessness caused by women forced to make the mind-bending choice of staying in an abusive relationship, or leaving without a permanent place to live.

Often such situations consist of two-income families reduced to one income, and even if the abusive partner leaves, the other often must take on the economic weight of paying for food, clothing, and the mortgage.

Unfortunately, the latter often becomes as much a casualty as the relationship itself, which gives rise to other pressures and stresses that can—and often does—lead to foreclosure and homelessness.

Over the past several months we’ve been presenting mortgage foreclosure workshops in the basement of churches, community centers, and even in a living room or two in order to provide information on how to possibly avoid a foreclosure.

We’ve also worked with Women Against Abuse to provide information to women who feel they are being intimidated by the accused (and his friends or family) at a court hearing on the matter.

We also serve the accused with Protection From Abuse orders and remove any and all weapons from the home of the accused.

Still, it is everyone’s responsibility, as President Obama said, to continue making this a matter of “national concern”.

With that in mind, I offer the following suggestions that can help those concerned with their safety in a courtroom, and how the sheriff’s office can help to assuage that fear:

  • If you are being harassed, threatened, or intimidated in a courtroom, immediately notify the sheriff and/or the judge.
  • If the deputy sheriff sees an action where a person is threatening or intimidating someone in the courtroom, that deputy can also be a witness for the victim.
  • There is always a supervisor who walks the hallways of 1801 Vine and the Criminal Justice Center.  They can be identified by their blue uniform and the star-shaped badge on the front of their shirt, or embroidered into the sleeve.  If you can’t immediately locate a deputy, the supervisor is sure to be in the area.
  • If you believe the person threatening you will show up at the same court hearing, notify the sheriff’s office to let them know you are on your way.
  • If you know there is a warrant out on a person who is threatening or intimidating you, please let the sheriff’s office know of this as well.

For more information on making this “national concern” your personal concern, you can reach out to organizations like Women Against Abuse (www.womenagainstabuse.org) as I did to better understand this issue when I sat down with Jeannine L. Lisitski, MA, the Executive Director, and Molly Callahan, the organizations Legal Center Director.

Knowledge is power, and essential to making a difference.

Join Our Mailing List

Email address: