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Fighting for the Right to Decent Housing

West Philadelphia, 1985

During the Vietnam War, America dropped more bombs on Southeast Asia than all of World War II. Millions of people throughout the region were forced from their homelands and hundreds of thousands ended up in the U.S.

Like many cities nationwide, Philadelphia was massively unprepared and untrained for the rising number of refugees needing assistance – leaving open the likelihood of exploitation an abuse. In neighborhoods like West Philadelphia, whole crew of slumlords built their riches by cramming dozens of families into housing with no heat and hot water.

AAU first heard about the abuses from discussions among Asian high school youth. AAU began talking about tenants rights with refugee tenants at one housing complex, Admiral Court. Cambodian tenants staged a rent strike. Linking up with Community Legal Services, Tenants’ Action Group, and other housing activists, AAU helped draw public attention to the issue and helped organize meetings with developers and politicians.

Eventually, the Cambodian tenants won the renovation of their apartment building. Today, Admiral Court remains affordable Section 8 housing.

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