Headlines of Yore

1990s battle over Mt. Airy AIDS hospice center shows the power of grassroots opposition — and the limits of NIMBYism

After much controversy, Betak eventually opened, but it would not last long.

The building that briefly housed Betak is now the McCallum Assisted Life care facility

The building that briefly housed Betak is now the McCallum Assisted Life care facility

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If a group of neighbors decides they don’t want a new project in their community, there are various ways they can mobilize to try to stop it. Organizing to deny zoning variances is a common tactic in Philadelphia, where neighborhood associations hold a lot of power over the process. But the effort doesn’t always work.

That was the case with a 1989 plan to turn a Mt. Airy nursing home into an AIDS hospice center.

The nonprofit Lutheran Home of Germantown proposed the project as the HIV epidemic was starting to peak, yet a cohort of residents came out against the treatment facility, saying it would bring drug users into their area. When stopping the project via zoning didn’t work, they tried other methods. Eventually, the center opened anyway.

Scroll down for the thread about the tug of war over Betak, which ended up closing in 1995, four years after launch.

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