Simpkins said she wants to negotiate to buy or lease the state-owned building, on Girard Avenue at 19th Street, after officials said Berean didn't have authority to lease space to ABO Haven.
She said she paid $9,000 a month to Berean from last September to April.
She said that she would offer her program as "ABO Haven @ Berean Institute" and that it has a contract to provide job training to people moving from welfare to work in the areas of home health care, certified nursing assistants and retail/customer service.
To supporters of Berean president Lorraine Poole-Naranjo, Simpkins' plans are atrocious.
"You can't buy a legacy, you live a legacy," said Ruth Birchett, an activist who runs a weekly food cupboard for the elderly at Berean. "No no-name organization will be permitted to rob Berean Institute of its rich legacy."
Vivienne A. Crawford, Berean's attorney, said Poole-Naranjo had pleaded with the state to allow ABO-Haven to stay at Berean. And Poole-Naranjo said she had told Simpkins she could stop paying rent until the state gave approval.
"That's the level of betrayal that is felt here by Dr. Poole," Crawford said. "You offer the hand of friendship, but you don't expect it's going to be cut off."
Founded in 1899 by the Rev. Matthew Anderson, and his wife, Dr. Caroline Still Anderson, Berean taught carpentry, tailoring, barbering and trades to African-Americans.
Poole-Naranjo said the state stopped funding Berean in 2008 after it lost its accreditation under the former board of trustees.
The school was suspended for five years after a state audit found serious mismanagement.
Poole-Naranjo said she hoped Berean would be able to turn things around and get a new license in 2013.
But state Sen. Shirley Kitchen said she believes it is time for some other organization to run Berean, pointing to groups with "credibility and funding" like ABO Haven or the Urban League.
Last Friday, ABO Haven was in court asking for an emergency injunction to prevent water, gas and electric services from being shut off.
The complaint said the Water Department shut off the water Aug. 17 because of an unpaid $40,000 bill.
Larry Farmbry, who owns a financial-services business and said he is an volunteer at Berean, promised in court to guarantee a payment plan.
The injunction request, filed by attorney Nino Tinari, also named Peco Energy Co. and Philadelphia Gas Works, as well as Berean, as defendants.
Simpkins said other utilities were named because ABO Haven didn't know if Berean was paying those bills and she couldn't run her programs without those services.
Peco and PGW asked to be dismissed from the action, saying they had no record of service to Berean. Spokesmen for both utilities said this week that they are investigating the history of utility service to the building.
Contact Valerie Russ at email@example.com or 215-854-5987. Follow her on Twitter @ValerieRussDN.