Center City: Project H.O.M.E. Tries to Eliminate Homelessness

Hyacinth King, Lisa Kavanagh and Sonja Dobbins-Gillis of Project H.O.M.E. enjoy coffee and breakfast from the H.O.M.E. Page Café.

Before joining the Project H.O.M.E. community Hyacinth King, 56, recalled living out of a cardboard box on the streets of Philadelphia and hustling for money and pills.

Hyacinth King, Lisa Kavanagh and Sonja Dobbins-Gillis of Project H.O.M.E. enjoy coffee and breakfast from the H.O.M.E. Page Café.

“I wasn’t always that way,” King said.

Growing up, King was raised by an upper-middle class-family, attended Friends Select Grade School and graduated from Temple University with a degree in business. One day, her life took an unexpected turn. King left her relatives and a family-run business and took to the streets of Philadelphia where she became homeless and developed a substance abuse problem.

“Every day, a police man would come up to me and ask if I was ready to come in for help,” King said.

After numerous failed attempts, King said an officer caught her in a moment of clarity and she decided to get help. King flip-flopped between various facilities, receiving only temporary treatment before she found herself back on the streets. This cycle of homelessness continued for some time until finally King ended up at a Project H.O.M.E. facility.

Kind said it wasn’t until she got to Project H.O.M.E. that she was dually diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia and substance abuse.

“Ever since I got to Project H.O.M.E., I have been clean, sober and stable,” King said.

That was 12 years ago. For the past seven years, King has been an employee of Project H.O.M.E. She described herself as having many jobs within Project H.O.M.E., including tutoring, volunteering and outreach. King also serves as a member of Project H.O.M.E.’s board of trustees and has done so for the past four years.

“Everyone has potential, but some people have more potential than others,” King said.

“Project H.O.M.E. meets people where they’re at and tries to find each person’s potential and make them feel productive because they can be productive at some point,” she said.

Originally founded in 1989, Project H.O.M.E. was created by Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson as a nonprofit organization aimed at providing housing and services to chronically homeless men and women in Philadelphia. The organization seeks to combat the cyclical issues of homelessness and poverty through not only getting homeless and low-income persons into shelters or facilities but through providing supportive housing, employment opportunities, education and healthcare.

Project H.O.M.E. estimates that there are approximately 4,000 people who are homeless or living in shelters or on the streets on any given day in Philadelphia.

Project H.O.M.E. offers various types of supportive housing programs including entry-level housing or “safe havens,”transitional housing and permanent housing. A total of 145 units of supported Project H.O.M.E. housing exist at five locations throughout Center City and North Philadelphia. Those living in Project H.O.M.E.’s permanent housing units must show a general pattern of stability for a full year before entering Project H.O.M.E.’s permanent supportive housing. Residents of these locations then pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The remainder of their dues are subsidized through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through programs like Section 8 or the Shelter Plus Care program.

A. Dione Stallsworth is seen working at the café.

At the core of its mission, the Project H.O.M.E. community seeks to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty by empowering and enabling those struggling with homelessness to attain their greatest potential as members of a broader society. In doing so, Project H.O.M.E. offers various opportunities and services specific to the needs and goals of individuals to help improve the quality of their lives.

Project H.O.M.E. operates programs aimed to help people of all ages increase their educational and employment opportunities. Various programs are offered at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs in North Philadelphia as well as employment services and initiatives throughout Center City.

This month, Project H.O.M.E. celebrated the three-year anniversary of one of its social enterprises, The H.O.M.E. Page Café at the Parkway Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia at 1901 Vine Street. The café offers job opportunities for formerly homeless individuals and helps them to build skills necessary for a work environment while providing livable wage pay.

“I am very appreciative of all of the opportunities I’ve had through Project H.O.M.E,” said 52-year old café employee A. Dione Stallsworth. While working at the café, Stallsworth is also receiving assistance and mentorship from Project H.O.M.E. to attend graduate school and become a children’s librarian.

Melanie Green is a women's bathroom attendant at the Free Library of Philadelphia and a resident of Project H.O.M.E.

Lisa Kavanagh, the manager of businesses for Project H.O.M.E. oversees 18 Project H.O.M.E. employees who work at the Free Library of Philadelphia through either the H.O.M.E. Page Café program or another supported employment opportunity, a restroom attendant program.

“All we need is someone who wants to make a change wants to be successful. We can help them do that,” Kavanagh said.

To learn more about Project H.O.M.E. or helping it in the efforts to eliminate homelessness and poverty, please visit the Project H.O.M.E. website.



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