Powelton Village: Ending Homelessness One Step at a Time

Melinda Brown is a workforce developer at People's Emergency Center.

https://vimeo.com/22751991 People’s Emergency Center]

At the People’s Emergency Center, support for homeless families and neighborhood revitalization are top priorities. Providing shelter and social services to those in need, this Powelton Village-based organization takes pride in the opportunities it creates for clients.

Melinda Brown is a workforce developer at People's Emergency Center.

“Our main goal is to supply [clients] with supportive services such as housing, shelter, jobs, employment training and different services like that,” said Melinda Brown, a workforce developer for PEC.

All clients go through a process to ensure that they will receive the help they need to be successful. After clients are given shelter, they are assigned a case manager and get assistance in receiving welfare benefits and medical assistance. From there, clients may start some type of job training and begin to save money for permanent housing. Once clients are placed in permanent housing, they still have a case manager to address any concerns and to make sure things are running smoothly.

Jenay Brooks, a 23-year-old mother of three is currently in transitional housing. She lives at Gloria’s Place, a dormitory-style residence at 39th and Spring Garden streets that provides both emergency and transitional housing, as well as food and clothing to homeless women, children and teens. In addition to Gloria’s Place, transitional housing can be found at Rowan House, which has added privacy and focuses on preparing families for the transition to independence.

Brooks’ struggles with homelessness began around the time she was 21 years old. When she and her ex-husband ran into financial troubles, they decided to live with family members to save money and avoid living check-to-check. While living with her grandmother, Brooks found out she was pregnant with her now 9-month-old daughter.

Brooks, 23, lives in transitional housing at Gloria's Place.

“My grandma saw that I was pregnant with my third child and she just said, ‘You gotta go.’”

Brooks certainly isn’t alone. According to Project H.O.M.E., another organization dedicated to ending homelessness, there may be as many as 4,000 people living on the street on any given day in Philadelphia. Additionally, City-data.com reported that 25 percent of Philadelphia residents live below the poverty level. This rate is twice that of the Pennsylvania state average.

In order to fight these statistics, People’s Emergency Center works with three major components.

“We have a shelter for women and families, we have an employment training program, and then we have our Community Development Corporation,” Brown said. The Community Development Corporation works on neighborhood initiatives to transform the community and improve the quality of living. In terms of permanent housing, it specializes in making subsidized housing available to those who need it. They also team up with other organizations including Preservation Alliance and the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.

PACDC is an umbrella organization that works with other community development corporations in the city, including the People’s Emergency Center, as well as with architects, design firms and banks. Together, these organizations create affordable housing and community revitalization. One of the projects in the works is the renewal of the Lancaster Avenue commercial corridor in Powelton Village.

“They’re working on making the whole corridor look better and more professional,” said Lynn Haskin, the director of external affairs at PACDC. This includes bringing in new stores, as well as creating residential units on top of them.

Preservation Alliance, located at 16th and Walnut streets, is also dedicated to revitalization. The organization has worked with the People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corp. on planting trees, as well as with the Powelton Village Civic Association with regard to increasing the number of residents who own their homes in the neighborhood.

“They’re trying to create a greater sense of homeownership within Powelton Village,” said Amy McCollum, the vital neighborhoods interim project director at Preservation Alliance. “They’re working on a brochure that will promote the virtues of owning your home.”

Amy McCollum of Preservation Alliance has worked with Powelton neighbors and the Powelton Village Civic Association.

Beyond collaboration with Preservation Alliance and PACDC, the People’s Emergency Center’s direct role in community revitalization includes finding abandoned buildings and turning them into restored housing units, as well as cleaning up parks and helping out the businesses on Lancaster Avenue.

“It needs to look like a nice place to live. If we’re going to build here, we have to make it unified with not just our clients that live here but also with the business owners, the community, everybody,” Brown said. “We also redevelop the buildings and supply them as housing to low-income families to help them merge into society.”

Brooks said she intends to find permanent housing and re-enter society in the near future, either from the People’s Emergency Center or on her own. With the money she’s saved up, she said she hopes to find an apartment, go back to school for dentistry and get married.

“I just want to be content. I don’t want to be rich,” she said. “Just enough to get by.”


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