On any given night, there are about 4,000 homeless people in Philadelphia. Last Monday night, there were six more.
Brothers from Alpha Tau Omega fraternity were left stranded Sept. 10 after Philadelphia Licenses and Inspections had them vacate their house at 2250 N. 12th St.The Temple students were forced out of their home after Licenses and Inspections deemed the fire and electrical codes not up to date. The three-story home also had incorrect zoning and license issues.
The brothers said they had no knowledge of the problems when they signed a lease with their landlord, David Cohen.
Cohen could not be reached for comment as of Monday afternoon.
ATO risk management chair Elliot Kerechek said the students were blindsided.
“We were trying to figure out what was going on and no one was answering our questions,” said Kerecheck, a junior biology major.
ATO Vice President Kevin Todd, a junior biochemistry major, said he called Cohen for help.
“He said, ‘Calm down, Kevin, this will be alright, it’s not a big deal,'” Todd said. “I pretty much told him it’s a big deal if I’m getting kicked out.'”
Todd said he was upset at how Cohen handled the situation but understood that things like this happen because all non-campus housing at Temple is technically illegal. Licenses and Inspections told Todd that single homes are not supposed to have more than three non-related adults living together.
After being forced out of their home, the brothers scrambled for shelter. Other ATO brothers opened up their homes to their stranded friends.
“We called up our friends and we spent the night in other houses,” Todd said. “There are a bunch of brothers who live on Colona Street. Three or four of the guys from the house went and stayed there.”
By Wednesday, the brothers had settled into a new house on 2212 N. 12th St. right down the block from the home they abruptly left two days before. The brothers’ new house is rented from the same landlord, Ken Laforo, that owns a house other brothers live in. Todd said the brothers found Cohen and his house on Craigslist.
Lisa Prestileo, the coordinator for the Office of Off-Campus Living, said, “Craigslist is going to be a crapshoot. You have to be prepared to look at things with a critical eye.”Kerechek said students really need to check out their landlords.
“I talked to this guy, we saw his other houses and they looked fine,” said Kerechek who added that students were living in Cohen’s other properties. He said to make sure your landlord has everything checked out and up to code.
Prestileo said the off-campus housing office is more than willing to check out properties for students.For legal advice the off-campus housing office directs students to the Tenant Union Representative Network. Their office is on 13th and Walnut streets.
Prestileo said students can get free legal advice as long as they bring their lease.
“The reason we do what we do is for the students. We can see things that other people won’t notice,” Prestileo
“I would love for the students to give us a chance before looking elsewhere.
We will read leases and go out and inspect properties,” Prestileo added.
She said her top priority is to make sure that students have some place to go.
“Students will not be left out in the cold,” she said.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org