The program coordinators of My Brother’s House and the Bainbridge house work diligently to help the men in their community.
Choosing to dedicate your entire life to work for a charity is no easy task. It takes a special individual who is willing to sacrifice their life for the greater good of those around them.
Geoffrey Ng, project coordinator for the Bethesda Project shelter My Brother’s House, is one of those individuals. Sacrificing his time is exactly what Ng has done since moving to Philadelphia two years ago.
“I came to Philadelphia looking to help in some way to give back to my community, to do good work, not necessarily to make money,” Ng said. “I had volunteered at homeless shelters and soup kitchens throughout my life.”
Despite having a background in volunteer work, Ng said he was not sure where to look when he first moved to the city. After learning about the Bethesda Project and their 15 separate spaces in Philadelphia for homeless and formerly homeless men and women, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I came to Philadelphia two years ago looking for a different career,” Ng said. “I really wanted to work with the homeless.”
He certainly came to the right place. The Bethesda Project, which was founded in 1979 by Reverend Domenic Rossi, serves over 2,000 homeless and formerly homeless men and women in Philadelphia each year.
After being hired at The Bethesda Project in 2011, Ng understands the diverse demographics of the Philadelphia homeless community.
“Each individual is unique. They have their own circumstances for coming here,” Ng explained. “Everyone has a story. They all have experience in trauma.”
With a large portion of the community suffering from serious medical issues, Ng has come to understand that treatingeach resident is different from the next. Of the 2,000 residents served by the Bethesda Project each year, 60 percent have been diagnosed with mental illness, while 45 percent have a history with drug or alcohol addiction.
Treating these residents is not easy, but Ng and the Bethesda Project have had tremendous help from the local community.
Over the span of a year the Bethesda Project has an estimated 3,500 volunteers that lend a helping hand either at the shelters or through donations.
“A lot of times our neighbors donate clothes, food and sometimes they donate their time here, which is really important,” Ng said. “But I do not think we have everyone in this neighborhood on board.”
Despite the large number of volunteers that come to the Bethesda Project each year, Ng said he believes there are still barriers within the community to overcome.
“They are very afraid, and I think it is built into our society of not understanding the issue of homelessness,” Ng justified. “There is that preconceived notion of homeless men being very dangerous criminals or sex offenders. They attach all these labels to the people who stay here without even giving them a chance.”
Overcoming these barriers is not a simple thing to do, but the Ng is doing everything he can. Along with the Bethesda Project’s presence in the community, Ng is on a personal mission to connect with the local neighborhood.
“What I have done is I have really made an effort to meet with our neighbors and help them understand what we are doing and the people who we serve,” Ng said. “We are trying to get these men off the streets.”
Although the surrounding community may not be completely supportive, Ng is dedicated to changing the lives on each resident he may encounter.
“From my perspective, I like to empower them and restore their sense of hope and self-worth,” Ng explained.
Similar to Ng, Reverend John Mosley, program coordinator at the Bainbridge House, also came to the Bethesda Project looking to give back to the community.
“I’ve come from a background of working in the Mayor’s Office and working in church settings, but I wanted to really help the men who could not help themselves,” Mosley explained. “I promised the Lord that I would do that for a few years, so that is why I came here.”
After recovering from a battle with prostate cancer, Mosley came to the Bainbridge House eager to devote his time to the local homeless community.
“My ministry has always been with men. I’ve worked in men’s ministries for the past 34 years,” Mosley said. “Now I’m really concentrated on recouping men who really need the most help on an on going basis.”
As Program Coordinator for the Bainbridge House, Mosley works closely with each resident finding ways to improve their lives on a day-to-day basis.
“Every man is different, and every case is different,” Mosley said. “My main goal is to help a man find where he is, in terms of how he can see himself improve financially, physically and mentally.”
While each situation is unique based on the resident, there is one common goal that connects them all. The Bethesda Project remains committed to finding and caring for the abandoned poor, while being a family for those who have none.