At any given time, and on any given day, it’s not unusual to see people camped out on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign requesting money, or walking around a busy intersection looking for a handout.
According to the signs, some are homeless, while others just need a few coins for something to eat.
They are young and old, black and white, and include even a growing number of veterans in these ranks of the unfortunate.
In my position as Sheriff of the City and County of Philadelphia, it disturbs me to see any one forced to beg and/or sleep on the streets, and especially disturbing when they are veterans who have already sacrificed so much in service to their country.
Statistics say the number of homeless veterans will continue to rise as they return home from places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and any theater of engagement where their lives are under constant threat.
It is troubling on many levels to have served your country honorably as a member of the Armed Forces, only to return to challenges and hurdles that may have arisen as a result of that same service, especially if they were in combat situations.
Among the organizations doing outreach on the street level is the Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF) Veterans Program that targets veterans and their families who are either homeless, or are at risk of losing their homes.
The program offers:
Workers in the UESF Veterans Program literally drive around seeking out homeless veterans on the street, and have done intake interviews with homeless individuals as they rest on cardboard mats on the sidewalk.
The organizations motto is a simple one: “Keeping Vulnerable Families in Their Homes”.
So if you know a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, or someone living in the household of a veteran who is homeless or close to losing their home, please pass along the following information.
UESF Veterans Program
Detective Joe Rovnan of the Homeland Security Division of the Philadelphia Police Department, Senior Director of Crime Prevention Services Stacy Irving of the Philadelphia Center City District, and Sheriff's Department Staff Inspector Paris Washington all spoke on the importance of developing an "Active Threat Plan" at the June 11th meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Condo Managers Association.
Jewell Williams, Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County (left) participated in Career Day at the Albert M. Greenfield School in Center City Philadelphia along with Marine Corps Reserve Captain Sean A. Toolan (middle) who has a son there in the second grade, and Deputy Sheriff Officer Marquet Parsons, a graduate of Greenfield.
Sheriff Wiliams spoke about the importance of education and delivered an anti-bullying message to a kindergarten and fifth grade class during the day.
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 too”.
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.
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-degrees 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.