Squatters gone, block happy

Posted: January 10, 2014

RULEE WILLIAMSON did something yesterday afternoon that he hasn't done in years.

The 81-year-old stood on his North Philadelphia porch, huge smile on his face, and took a deep breath of fresh air.

After a column chronicling how Williamson and his neighbors had long been tormented by the stench of urine and feces dumped by squatters at 3236 N. 27th St., the city finally cleaned and sealed the property Tuesday.

"It's over," Williamson said. "Finally, it's over."

Over the years, many suggested that the family take matters into their own hands and board up the problem house. But Williamson, a retired contractor, and his 74-year-old wife, Shirley, a retired University of Pennsylvania employee, were adamant about following the rules.

The problem was that the rules were penalizing law-abiding citizens. Despite numerous violations issued by Licenses & Inspections, the process was making prisoners of a whole block of mostly elderly homeowners who were not just unable to enjoy a little fresh air, but afraid of retaliation if they complained too much.

The original homeowner of the problem home died years ago. Squatters moved in and brought drugs, prostitution, and heaps of garbage and human waste that they tossed into the back yard, neighbors' trash cans and even city drains.

The Williamsons repeatedly turned to city agencies for help. They went public with their concerns on Fox 29 last year. But nothing changed, until Tuesday, when the city, with the aid of Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.'s office, quickly cleaned and sealed the house. Williamson's daughter, Shirley Wilson, said sealing it was a boost to the whole block.

"As I looked out the window, we saw many people walking by smiling and taking pictures of the house," she said.

"I'll tell you, that was a burden on us. And now the burden's been lifted."


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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