Students scramble to find alternate housing

Philadelphia police SWAT and counterterrorism officers gather on Berks Street Sunday, Oct. 13, during the 17-hour standoff between police and an armed student. The standoff ended at 2 a.m. Monday morning with the student detained alive. | Hua Zong TTN
Philadelphia police SWAT and counterterrorism officers gather on Berks Street Sunday, Oct. 13, during the 17-hour standoff between police and an armed student. The standoff ended at 2 a.m. Monday morning with the student detained alive. | Hua Zong TTN

As the standoff between police and an armed student reached the witching hour Sunday night, the streets around the barricaded 1800 block of North Willington Street lay mostly deserted, though a few displaced stragglers remained looking for a place rest their heads.

Kelly Martin, a junior criminal justice major, walked past a line of yellow police tape and stopped to observe the scene before continuing on in her quest to find lodging for the night.

“I’d take a dorm over nothing,” Martin said, adding that several friends had offered her spare clothes and a spot on their couch.

“Obviously they can’t give you much info [about the armed standoff],” Martin said. “But it would be nice if they could give you a place to stay.”

The 17-hour standoff left university officials scrambling Sunday night to find alternative housing for students who were not allowed back into their  homes until after 2 a.m.

Early on, Campus Safety Service officials said they were looking into the possibility of accommodating students in spare residence hall rooms, but when it was discovered that they were fully booked, space was made for a limited amount of students in the Student Center.

An official with CSS nighttime watch confirmed shortly after midnight that  blankets were ready to be provided to displaced student residents of Willington Street in the lobby of the Student Center, where couches could accommodate sleeping space for 20 to 25 students. As of 1 a.m., no students had taken up the offer.

Many students took to social media to say that they were having trouble contacting the university to find out where to go.

“The only information I got directly from

Soon after the lockdown started, police told students living on the 1800 block of Willington Street and the 1600 block of Berks Street to remain inside on the second floor of their houses. However, throughout the day, many students stood and watched the incident from their stoops and many reported being allowed to come and go with a police escort.

Jared Gluskin, a junior finance major and resident of the 1800 block of Willington Street was permitted to return to the scene after a Chinese food run around 9 p.m.

“I mean [my home] is literally right there, you don’t even have to turn the corner to get into the house,” he said. “I guess we got a little leeway because we didn’t actually have to enter any visionary streams of anybody.”

Willington resident and student Kyle Morris said that he departed his home for work just before the incident began and was turned away when he arrived back home at about 6 p.m. Four hours later, he returned to the scene to find better luck.

“Around 10:30 p.m. I talked to the cops and convinced them to escort me home, because I live a few houses down from Montgomery,” Morris said in an email.

For those who weren’t allowed back on the block, hope came in the form of fellow students who took to social media to provide housing for their fellow peers as the night progressed. The fraternity Zeta Beta Tau, advertised their open doors via a tweet at the Temple News.

A few students were also able to find accommodation in the Conwell Inn along Liacouras Walk at the university’s expense.

Student Body President Darin Bartholomew, who lives next door to the house where the standoff occurred, said he left his house around 6 p.m. to get food and was not allowed back in.

“I’m slightly concerned about the communication of [emergency housing],” said Bartholomew, who was one of the students given housing in Conwell Inn. “I had a hard time figuring it out myself.

“There was a plan in place, there just wasn’t the best job done reaching out to those students,” Bartholomew said.

“Every time we have an incident like this we do a review,” Ray Betzner, a university spokesman, said. “That is how we get better.”

After the barricaded student was successfully negotiated out of his armed standoff with police shortly after 2 a.m., the cordoned off area was reopened and by 2:30 students were allowed to return home.

The house where negotiators had spent hours speaking with the student lay dark near the corner of Willington and Berks streets. Several inquisitive students took the time to finally open there doors and peer out onto the street that had been occupied by teams of SWAT officers only minutes before.

John Moritz and Cindy Stansbury can be reached at news@temple-news.com.

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