Though there are still months before Pope Francis sets foot in Philadelphia for his historic — and first — trip to the United States since being appointed, the city is already in full-swing preparing for his visit, and Penn is no exception.
In a whirlwind five-day visit, the pope will visit Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27. The trip will also include stops in New York City and Washington D.C.
Estimates put expected visitors to the city between one and two million people. The United States Census Bureau approximates the population of Philadelphia to be roughly 1.5 million people, meaning the city is expected to double in size for the weekend of the pope’s visit.
Accommodating so many people in the city could prove challenging. This week, SEPTA announced that visitors will have to purchase a special pass to ride the Regional Rail lines during the weekend of the visit. Sales of these passes will begin at 9 a.m. on July 20.
Most hotels in the city are already completely booked, including the Hilton Inn at Penn. The Sheraton Hotel in University City, which typically rents rooms at approximately $159 per night on weekends is listing its remaining available rooms online at $539 per night for the weekend of the papal visit, according to their website.
With the city quickly running out of hotel space, many people, including some Penn students, have come up with an alternative solution. Turning to websites like Airbnb, students are listing their off-campus apartments — or even their entire homes — for rent the weekend of the visit.
Third-year English graduate student Mariah Min has decided to list her studio apartment on Locust street for the weekend and is hoping to find 1-2 guests to stay there. Her current listing on Airbnb advertises her studio for $300 per night.
Min said that she got the idea to list her apartment from a conversation with a friend in the same building.
“We were chatting about the whole pope visit and we were wondering, with so many people coming to the city, where they would all be staying,” she said. “We went on Airbnb and found a lot of listings, so I decided to list my apartment too,” she said, adding that she will stay with her friend if she does successfully rent her apartment.
“It was mostly just for fun,” Min said. In the week since she has listed her apartment, she has not yet had any interest in it. “The way I see it, if it does happen, it’s kind of a win-win situation,” she said, but noted that she is not doing anything to promote it.
Min also said that while her studio could comfortably accommodate 1-3 people, she doesn’t know “how dire the housing situation will get” and is not setting an “upper bound” for how many people she is willing to house.
At the time of publication, Campus Apartments, which owns many of the houses and apartments students are listing, had not returned The Daily Pennsylvanian’s request for comment.
While some students are willing to open their doors to guests for the papal visit, Penn Residential Services does not seem to have the same plans.
In an email sent to students on Tuesday afternoon, Residential Services stated that guests will not be allowed in the residence halls between 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 and 8 a.m. on Sept. 28. The email defined guests as people or visitors who are not currently enrolled students at Penn.
In an emailed statement to the DP, Director of Residential Services John Eckman said that Penn has no plans to use empty or extra rooms in residence halls to accommodate visitors. “Campus residences are reserved for the Penn Community (except during summer when the University hosts conferences) and during the school year nearly all our campus residences are occupied or in use,” he said.
While Eckman also said that “students can request a pre-approved guest visit exception to allow access for one short day-time visit” for family members who have previously arranged to visit them, he also said that “we encourage families to choose alternate dates to visit as the city will be very difficult to navigate during this time.”
While Eckman did not clarify what — if any — extra security might be on campus for the visit, he said that, like other big events including Spring Fling and Move-In, Residential Services may have extra staff on campus that could affect residents.
The email sent to residents emphasized that their focus is on maintaining a safe and healthy environment for students.
“During late September, you will likely be balancing participating in new student organizations, preparing for mid-terms, and enjoying getting to know your new hall mates. It is our responsibility in Residential Services and College Houses and Academic Services to ensure that you always have a safe and purposeful learning environment,” the email said.
It also included special guest policies for other dates, including Spring Fling and the Democratic National Convention, which will happen in Philadelphia in July 2016.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.