Whatever happened to...?

Posted: June 18, 2014

WE'RE ABOUT halfway through the year, so it seems like a good time to stop, smell whatever's blooming and update readers who've asked, "Hey, whatever happened to . . . ?"

Speaking of smells, let's start with the feces house on 22nd Street above Lehigh Avenue in Swampoodle: Neighbors finally can exhale after years of dealing with the stench emanating from 2730 N. 22nd St. Following last week's column, neighbors said a crew showed up to clean up and make some long-overdue repairs. Janeen Mills, the grandmother with respiratory issues who initially called me about the smelly house, said workers told her that they found all kinds of human and animal feces inside. "Once they took a toilet out with feces still in it, the smell was almost gone," Mills said. She said one worker apologized. "I can't imagine what you had to endure," he told her, she said.

The stiffed SEPTA widow: It took eight years and the Fraternal Order of Police to step in, but the widow of a slain SEPTA police officer finally got the thousands of dollars owed to her by a city police officer. FOP president John McNesby said he wanted to do right by Jeanne Sides Sewell, a breast-cancer survivor with mounting medical bills. On May 28, the FOP gave Sewell a check for $19,000, which included interest on the original $15,000 that Officer Patrick McCullough had borrowed from her in 2006 to buy his dream car. Sewell sent me a message that went for the FOP too: "Thank you a million times over." McNesby said Officer McCullough has since repaid the FOP.

Walk a Crooked Mile Books lives: The beloved Mount Airy bookstore that was scheduled to close this summer is getting new owners and a new location at Germantown Avenue near Durham Street. Longtime owner Greg Williams said it saddened him that the store won't be staying at its longtime location inside the historic Mount Airy train station. But he's "overjoyed" that it will go on.

Homeless Recovery Center fills a huge void: Dr. Bon Ku, the tenacious emergency-room physician who pushed for a much-needed homeless-recovery center, reports that it's off to a successful start. About 10 patients have been referred to the DePaul House men's shelter since it opened in March at Sprague Street near Price in East Germantown. Five are recovering at the center. "If the pilot continues to be successful, we hope to expand beds in the future," Ku said.

New wheelchair: Meredith Gill, a young quadriplegic who in January got stuck in the middle of busy John F. Kennedy Boulevard in a broken wheelchair, has a new chair. Gill got stuck in the middle of bureaucratic BS between Medicare and the chair vendor. After her story ran, many local politicians - including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey - stepped up to help. In March, Gill sent me a picture of her new chair. "Here it is! Making its debut . . . and it's fantastic!"

I wish it was all good news. A program that keeps first-time drug offenders out of jail just accepted its last class unless it gets more funding. The folks over at JEVS Human Services are scrambling to find money to keep its "The Choice is Yours" program going. As I asked last month, how can we afford not to fund a program that costs about $5,000 per participant, versus the $40,000 a year it costs to keep someone in prison?

When I posted a tweet updating readers who often ask, "Whatever happened to . . . ?" jokester Joel Mathis over at Philadelphia magazine tweeted back: "What ever happened to the Philly Shrug?"

Maybe the warm temps have me feeling uncharacteristically optimistic these days, but I've actually seen some improvement - mostly in young people and newcomers who seem a lot less inclined to accept things as they are just because that's the way they've always been.

Call me a dreamer, but I still believe that (cue music) one day the dreaded Philly Shrug is going to be a thing of the past, Philadelphia children will be able to get a quality education no matter what public school they attend and city streets will be clean of all trash. Oh . . . and the Sixers will be worth our time and emotion once again.

Hey, a girl can dream . . .


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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