PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A trade school founded in 1899 to provide vocational training to black workers has been evicted from its publicly owned building in Philadelphia after falling years behind on rent and utility bills, state officials said.
The Berean Institute’s failure to make lease payments has been “willful and outrageous,” according to an eviction letter sent last week by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.
“We felt we could not allow it to go on any further,” agency spokesman Troy Thompson said Tuesday.
The letter ordered cash-strapped Berean to vacate the premises by Friday. However, Thompson said the state will give the school 30 days to find a new location, so as not to disrupt classes for tuition-paying students.
School president Lorraine Poole-Naranjo told the Philadelphia Daily News that Berean will move to a new space and continue to operate. A Berean representative did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Berean has occupied the building near the Fairmount neighborhood since 1973. The state also had threatened eviction in 2008 after the institute failed to pay rent for two years, an amount totaling more than $310,000 at that point.
The school never closed _ and never paid the back rent, state officials said.
Thompson could not explain why that eviction did not go through, noting the attempt came under a previous administration.
The new eviction letter dated Sept. 6 alleged that Berean had been subletting parts of the building _ a violation of its lease _ and collecting rent from those tenants while stiffing the state.
The school also had a $40,000 unpaid city water bill, according to state officials, who added they could not find any records of Berean paying for electric and gas service, either.
Berean was founded to provide blacks with vocational and business skills, and many of its early students were new arrivals from the segregated South.
According to the school’s website, it currently offers only barber and cosmetology classes. Thompson did not have any enrollment figures.