Over the past 20 years, the Interfaith Network of Northwest/Northeast Philadelphia has helped 327 families transition out of homelessness and into a life of stability.
The main goal of the program is to help families find safe housing, work with them on money management and avoid returning to homelessness.
This Sunday, from 12 to 5 p.m. the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center, MRAC, will be hosting Collaboration of Hope, an art exhibit and humanities program to help benefit the families of the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Rachel Falkove, executive director of Interfaith Hospitality Network, said, “There’s tremendous community support for this work.”The concept of the event is to give people an up close experience with those who are stereotyped as being homeless.
“You don’t really think about families of our community being homeless,” said Falkove. “Walking down the block you wouldn’t know it was a person experiencing homelessness.”
The MRAC came to the Interfaith Network with the idea of hosting the event.
“We were really touched,” said Falkove.
The art center does a monthly art show for a different cause or nonprofit organization in an effort to have a display a broad view, beyond the art community. Then they establish a theme based on the cause of the organization.
“For us it’s about the hope that comes from communities, a community of support,” said Falkove. “It’s that hope families get from communities to move forward in their lives.”
For Falkove the event is about giving people a better understanding of who these people are and what they need.
“It’s a way to make us all feel responsible in some way for our neighbors,” said Falkove.
The event will be held in the MRAC’s gallery at 419 Green Lane, where individuals can go in and buy artwork. Twenty-five percent of all the proceeds will go to the Interfaith Network to aid families; the rest will go to the art center. There will also be a collection box which is a free offering for individuals to donate.
The proceeds made during the event will go toward families like the Levit family.Marilyn Levit held the same stigma of shelters that many people posses, but after fighting foreclosure on her home for about a year and a half, Levit was evicted and the shelter was her only option.
“I didn’t want to go to no shelter, no way, with the concept you have of a shelter,” said Levit.
Her daughter’s best friend’s mother told Levit that the Interfaith Network “was a really nice one” and was not owned by the city.
“She told me that it (Interfaith) wasn’t what you think a typical shelter is,” said Levit. “It’s like a family. It’s really small and run by private organizations. It’s totally different and not what you’re going to expect.”
The Collaboration of Hope event is meant to break the stereotypes of homelessness and Levitt is grateful for that.
“We are here for different reasons and I’m not here for any fault of my own which is a stigma they put on like ‘oh we can’t pay our bills’ or ‘we are lazy,’ but that’s not my case,” said Levit. “I just want to be financially dependent and get back on my feet.”
During the event, there will be a spoken word and song presentations from 3 to 5 p.m. and will include works from the MRAC Humanities director, Peter Krok along with MRAC member and Philadelphia poet, Mike Cohen.
Former and current Interfaith members will also be at the event telling their story.
Bianca Jones, an 18-year-old high school student, is currently in the program and will be signing during the Collaboration of Hope.
“I’m not really crazy nervous,” said Jones. “It’s mostly because I’m pressured into doing it because my dad wants me to do it.”
For Jones, the hardest part of being in the program is hiding it from her friends.
“There are problems if my friends ask if they can come over to my house, I tell them ‘no,’” said Jones. “Then they ask ‘why’ and I have to think of a reason to tell them which is hard because there aren’t that many reasons to think of.” Jones said she is happy the Collaboration of Hope event is happening because it lets her know that people are interested in helping the cause.
“Basically its helping people to understand how this works and it kind of makes me feel better because it lets me know people actually care and that’s just want gets me,” said Jones. “That they care.
For more information on the event, visit https://www.mrartcenter.org.