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HOME Word Blog

PIT Count 2020

Each year, Philadelphia performs a Point-in-Time (PIT) Count in January of all individuals living on the streets, unsheltered, or in temporary shelter housing. The PIT and Youth Count count engages concerned citizens and Philadelphia agencies working to eradicate homelessness to help estimate the size of the population in need of housing and critical life supports. 

Why We Count:

Wes arrived at Fairmount Avenue at 6 AM, ready to help. But he was not ready for what he saw. “I was stunned. The line was already around the block.” He knew it would be a big crowd, but he hadn’t quite imagined this. Wes, a resident at Project HOME’s Francis House of Peace and a Project HOME Trustee, was going to volunteer as part of the opening day for people to submit applications for our newest residence, which would provide 88 units of permanent housing for homeless, formerly homeless, and low-income people.

Over 20 residents are gathered in the community room at Project HOME’s Kate’s Place residence in a late afternoon. They have come from a few of our different sites to share a couple of hours of mutual support. It is one in a series of Recovery Cafes, an initiative envisioned and run by several resident leaders. Kim shares wisdom about finding the truth of who you are, despite all the negative voices and experiences. She is animated and passionate as she speaks. Heads nod throughout the room as some common core of woundedness is touched – as is a spark of hope for healing.

As a young, dynamic, and talented student organizer in the late 1980s, Gloria Casarez was a vital partner with Project HOME in advocating for justice and dignity for people experiencing homelessness and poverty. The scrappy program she started, Empty the Shelters, had their first office space in our yet-to-be-developed building at 1515 Fairmount Avenue.

The scene could almost be out of Dante’s Inferno. But this is real life. Dozens of people in shabby tents or other makeshift semi-dwellings, encamped under the bridge, their environs trashed and chaotic. Even their cold lodgings were not as chaotic as the lives of these men and women, in the grips of a relentless and deadly addiction, mired in desperation, living on a thin edge of survival that could give way one day to a bad dose or a dirty needle.

When Loretta first came through the doors of Project HOME’s health clinic, she brought with her a complex blend of issues. As if having asthma, diabetes, and dealing with high blood pressure weren’t enough, she also had to deal with her background of poverty, homelessness, and addiction. Loretta was a resident of Project HOME’s Rowan Homes but in her strained economic situation, she had run out of medication and had no health insurance. “They treated me with compassion and dignity,” she remembers, “they didn’t just give me medicine and push me out the door.

Jessica looked strong and assured as she stood at the podium. Looking at the crowd of recent high school graduates, she told them she understood their feelings of apprehension about the future.
But she also wanted to encourage them through her own story. “I have come a long way,” she told them, “and I am proud of the person I am becoming.”

Move-in day at Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building, Project HOME’s brand-new permanent housing facility. Rashawn is accompanied by Project HOME Residential staff as they take the elevator to the third floor. They arrive at Room 408, to find the door decorated with a large ribbon and bow, like a package ready to be opened. Filled with a mixture of excitement, amazement, and even some fear, Rashawn opened the door and entered the spacious, furnished efficiency apartment (complete with a gift basket of household supplies).

From the moment we met her, we knew that Helen Brown was a force of nature – but also a force of love and care for people. Helen, along with Chis Whaley and Priscilla Bennett (Ms. T), worked tirelessly to engage the people in the neighborhood.

The building was just what we were looking for. The beautiful solidly built four-story structure (originally a casket factory and later a furniture display warehouse) would serve perfectly as our first permanent housing residence for many of the people we had been working with who still needed to permanently break the cycle of homelessness with a place of their own.

It would be a challenge – securing financing, housing vouchers, permits. We even anticipated the usual protests from some in the neighborhood, an inevitable part of developing housing for people with special needs.