Homeless families to remain in Sacher Park

Court places a two-month injunction against municipality attempt to evict tent residents.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
January 26, 2012 04:25
2 minute read.
TENT CITY in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park

TENT CITY in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Twenty-two homeless families will remain in their tents and shacks in Sacher Park after the Jerusalem Administrative Court on Monday put a two-month temporary injunction on the municipality’s plans to evict the families this week.

The ruling means that the families will stay in the park through Jerusalem’s frigid winter, something the city had been trying to avoid by offering them partial rent for a six-month period.

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But the tent encampment residents say the mayor was trying to “clean them out” before the marathon, which starts and ends at Sacher Park on March 16.

“He wants to kick us all out, but we’ll be here for the marathon,” said resident Vaknin Keren, a single mother whose son is in the army. “We’re really happy we won at least in the injunction, the judge said they need to find us something more relevant, for a year, two years, more permanent solutions.”

“You can’t just throw us out,” Keren added, as she tried to beat dried mud out of her pillows, which were damaged in the heavy rainfall that had soaked Jerusalem over the past few days.

The residents are concerned that if they abandon their public protest, the Construction and Housing Ministry will forget about them and they will be even worse off when the six-month period of rental assistance ends. Accepting the municipality’s offer of immediate rental assistance requires residents to sign contracts that they will not return to a tent encampment in the park.

“There is no dispute that the petitioners are not there by choice, and it is not solely about a protest, but rather a serious absence of housing,” said Judge Yigal Marzel in his ruling, adding that even the municipality described the conditions as “inhumane.” He granted the two-month injunction in order to give the residents additional time to pressure the ministry to grant some of their demands.

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The municipality claims they are continuing to look for temporary housing for the families, despite the fact that it is the responsibility of the Construction and Housing Ministry. The temporary solution is a six-month grant for rental assistance of up to NIS 2,800 per month per family, which would be supplemented by an additional grant from the ministry.

The emergency housing grants will cost a total of NIS 300,000.

In a statement released by his office, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he stressed to the tent encampment representatives that he is not against their protest for housing, but that he cannot let it continue to “negatively affect the public sphere and become a health and security liability.”

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