The Swarthmore Borough Planning Commission will meet Wednesday evening, August 17, to consider the Fair Housing Accommodation request of the Headstrong Foundation, which hopes to purchase the house at 200 South Chester Road in Swarthmore.
The special hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. at Swarthmore Borough Hall, and is open for public participation and comment. Copies of the request and supporting documents are available for review at the Swarthmore Public Library and the borough office.
The Foundation seeks to use the house to provide a temporary residence for cancer patients and their families during their courses of treatment at University of Pennsylvania Hospital and Children’s Hospital. In order for this use to be permitted, Planning Commission member Jon Penders said, “The applicant is requesting an accommodation from the borough’s zoning ordinance definition of ‘family,’” which in part describes a family as “Not more than three unrelated persons occupying a dwelling unit, living together.’’
“If an accommodation is granted to that definition,” Penders said, “then the Headstrong Foundation may occupy the residence with up to seven patients and associated caregivers as a “Family” in the RB zoning district, which permits a Single Family residence.”
The Federal Fair Housing Act provides for housing policies and license and permit issuance to be applied equally to all people, regardless of disability. “The borough has encountered a couple of these accommodation requests related to installation of ramps and the like over the years,” Penders said. Members of the Planning Commission will assemble on Wednesday as an Accommodation Request Review Board. Their decision will be binding, though subject to appeal by the applicant or by another interested party recognized at the hearing.
What is The Headstrong Foundation?
The Headstrong Foundation owns and operates a similar residence in Holmes, Pa., called Nick’s House. Its namesake, Nick Colleluori, founded the organization ten years ago, inspired by his family’s devoted support, and moved by the sacrifices which his and other families made in order to support their own during their illness and treatment. Nick was 19 when diagnosed with lymphoma, and his family dropped everything to be with him during a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, said his mother Cheryl Colleluori. “There were six of us sleeping in a room, but we did what we needed to — keep the family together. Nick had insight and sensitivity, and he recognized the lack of resources to help families that are displaced by this disease. And he did something about it by founding Headstrong.”
Nick died in 2006. Within five years, the first Nick’s House was hosting families, one or two at a time, in Holmes. The much larger Swarthmore iteration of Nick’s House would accommodate up to seven families or 14 persons at a time, requiring installation of an additional handicap-accessible entry with wheelchair lift, and a few reversible interior modifications. The building would retain its residential character, according to the accommodation request, and no medical services would be provided on site.
Cheryl Colleluori expects that if permitted, Nick’s House in Swarthmore would afford families a tranquil and safe village setting during their average stay of 6 to 8 weeks, while also providing easy access by SEPTA to the facilities and advanced therapies offered at Penn and CHOP. The Foundation does not charge families for their accommodations.