The pope’s upcoming visit to Philadelphia brings both opportunities and challenges to Penn students living on and around campus. While some are capitalizing on high housing rates for visitors, others are opening their doors freely and still others are restricted in having guests that particular weekend.
Students who live off-campus are using the online renting site Airbnb to sell their spaces for the weekend. With over 1.5 million visitors expected in Philadelphia on the weekend of Sept. 26, the demand for housing is high, and space limited. As of Aug. 31, over 520 rentals were listed on Airbnb for the University City area from Sept. 25 to Sept. 28.
Among one of a dozen identifiable Penn students found on Airbnb, College junior and psychology major Matthew Dong has an “Apartment for Pope” at 3900 Chestnut Street for $150 per night. Dong has been an Airbnb member since August 2015, and this is his first listing on the site.
Although he might make an easy $150 a night, Dong doesn’t plan to get rich quick off the papal visit. “It’s one of those things where it’s really easy to set up ... and I could have it at like 25 or 50 dollars a night which actually seems reasonable, but that money isn’t exactly worth having someone over. If someone does accept what I have right now, that would be totally worth it,” he said.
Airbnb verifies and privatizes every host’s contact information to ensure the safety and privacy of its users, but users may still add personal information on their profiles.
“The idea of putting a room on Airbnb has been floating around and that people could list their apartments for a lot, but I don’t know anyone else doing it but me,” he said.
Other Penn students who listed their apartments for the weekend declined or did not respond to requests for comment. One Penn posting entitled, “Private Room for Papal Visit,” is located on Locust Street for $120 a night. Another student’s post, “UCity Room — Perfect for Pope Visit,” offers a stay at South 42nd Street for $240 a week. Many of the profiles were made within the last few months.
While some students hope to turn a profit over the papal visit, members of the Penn Newman Catholic Community, St. Agatha-St. James Catholic Parish and Penn Catholic Student Association care more about experiencing Pope Francis’ visit firsthand.
Working with the Penn Newman Center, St. Agatha-St. James Catholic Parish is hosting several “pilgrims” from around the world for the papal visit, Newman Center Assistant Director Jeff Klein said.
“We are receiving almost 200 people to stay here specifically from Harvard and Brown, also from Denison University and University of Dallas ... also from Canada and South America, all of them are college students,” Javier de la Flor, the parish’s communications director, said. “We are offering the basement of the big church to sleep.”
These pilgrims add to the large number of students from Penn and Drexel who have already registered to experience the papal visit, de la Flor said. All of the spots are currently filled.
Penn has reserved a spot near the papal ceremonies downtown for students to witness the events, and the Newman Center is asking for 300 volunteers to assist the Philadelphia 2015 World Meeting of Families.
College sophomore Ivana Kuhot is a member of the Penn Newman Catholic Community and is very excited for Francis’ visit.
“The pope has many beautiful teachings about love, and I am excited that people are both metaphorically and quite literally ‘flocking’ to him,” she said. “Honestly, I am not afraid that the city will be too hectic or crowded when he visits.”
Penn students who live in residence halls will not be having any friends or family stay with them during the pope’s visit, as Residential Services sent out emails regarding the restricted guest policy as early as July 14.
Guests are not allowed in residence halls from 5 p.m. Sept. 25 until 8 a.m. Sept. 28. Residential Services is defining guests as “individuals who are not currently enrolled University of Pennsylvania students.”
Although no guests are allowed, Residential Services is bracing for the impact of the city shutdown. “Residential Services will have additional staff on campus during the Papal Visit, which is typical for any big event (Spring Fling, move-in) that might impact our residents,” Director of Residential Services John Eckman wrote in an email.
Pope Francis will arrive in Philadelphia at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 26, after having visited Washington, D.C. and New York City days before. Philadelphia will host the weeklong World Meeting of Families as the faithful await his Holiness on Saturday.Comments powered by Disqus
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