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Philadelphia Student Union searches for new home

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Student Union has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to finance new office space.

In April, the youth advocacy group was evicted from its offices in University City.

“We’ve always paid our rent. We’ve never had any issues with the landlord; they’ve never had any issues with us. It’s purely an issue of them moving in a different direction, and the neighborhood as a whole changing,” said PSU executive director Hiram Rivera.

The building where PSU was located, he said, will be transformed to include a restaurant on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors, where PSU had its offices.

PSU will likely move to West Philadelphia, said Rivera. The new location will be more expensive, so the group has turned to Indiegogo, a fundraising site, to try to raise $11,000 to cover its relocation costs.

Rivera said that PSU has actually been able to share office space with other organizations, including the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Community Access Media (otherwise known as PhillyCAM) and the Media Mobilizing Project, while they search for new digs.

“The city is becoming more and more unaffordable for groups like ours. It’s becoming less and less youth-friendly. … Trying to find a safe space for young people is tough,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of safe space available, which means we’re finding ourselves getting pushed further and further out west, further from where the young people are in schools … as a result of gentrification.”

Rivera said that having office space is crucial for the now 20-year-old organization because the group does more than organize political action.

“We provide a home away from home … a safe space for students of all backgrounds to come in and be in a safe environment, to freely express themselves, to kick back, to plan and work hard to make the change they see to be necessary in their communities,”

“[It is] a space to drop in when they have nowhere else to go. Instead of going into the streets, they come here.”

PSU has had chapters in 15 District schools over the past two decades. The organization has also helped launch student unions in six other cities and has been featured by various media including MSNBC, Rolling Stone, and the Nation for its work locally and nationally.

To learn more about the effort, visit the group’s Indiegogo campaign page.

Michaela Ward is a summer intern at the Notebook.

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