Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does HOME stand for?
Project HOME stands for Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, and Education. Project HOME empowers people to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.
Q: What does Project HOME do?
Our primary activities consist of the following four components reflected in our name, as well as Advocacy:
Housing – We provide permanent housing and support services for people who are or were unsheltered (or at risk of becoming unsheltered). We emphasize a holistic approach and serve primarily individuals with a history of mental illness, addiction or both. On behalf of the City of Philadelphia and through our Outreach Coordination Center, we coordinate teams of outreach professionals from five nonprofit health and social service organizations. These teams provide 24/7 street outreach coverage for individuals living on the street and work diligently to connect individuals to housing and services. Project HOME's supportive housing programs at our 20 residences offer permanent housing for individuals and families who had been homeless. Project HOME has developed 1,038 units of affordable and supportive housing for persons who have experienced homelessness and low-income persons at-risk of homelessness in Philadelphia; there are an additional 40 units under construction and 100 units in the pipeline.
Opportunities for Employment – We provide computer classes, career training, job readiness workshops, life skills workshops, GED classes, adult basic literacy classes and access to other resources to help local residents improve their lives, gain employment, and pursue higher education. Additionally, residents have the opportunity to learn new skills, re-enter or enter the world of work, and increase income with our Social Enterprises.
Medical Care - The Stephen Klein Wellness Center (SKWC) fulfills our commitment to addressing the health and wellness needs of people who are currently homeless, formerly homeless, and people living in our North Philadelphia community. At the SKWC, we offer primary medical care, dental care, psychiatric services, nurse care management, individual, couples and group counseling, peer-led outreach and care coordination, healing touch, and assistance with applying for health insurance benefits.
Education – Our Honickman Learning Center Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL) reflects our understanding of the intrinsic link between lack of educational opportunity and poverty. At the HLCCTL, we provide educational programs which focus on providing the most current computer literacy and equal opportunity to at-risk children, youth, and families. Our commitment is to ensure that poverty is not a barrier to reaching education potential.
Advocacy and Community Engagement – We work with a variety of coalitions on city, state, and national levels to impact public policies, educate elected officials, maximize resources for housing and services, and advocate for human and civil rights for persons who are poor, homeless, and/or disabled. We work to educate the community about the realities of homelessness and what we can do to address it.
Q: How can I help?
There are many ways to help Project HOME in our mission to end homelessness, and we could not do our work without the assistance of many generous people and organizations! Opportunities to get involved include:
- Contribute financially online or by mail to the attention of the Development Department at 1515 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130.
- Make an in-kind donation of items like toiletries or linens.
- Shop – buying from our businesses supports creating jobs and empowers participants to gain employment and marketable skills.
- Volunteer your time through our many volunteer opportunities, such as helping with meal service at one of our safe haven residences, tutoring a student at our learning center, or sharing a hobby with our community.
- Respond to homelessness in your community—if you see a person who appears to be homeless in need of assistance, call our Outreach Hotline at 215-232-1984.
- Participate in our political advocacy efforts—join our email list, subscribe to our newsletter, check our website, and take action on anti-poverty policies that are important to you.
- Join us online—become part of our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube networks and sign-up for email alerts.
Q: How did Project HOME get started?
Project HOME traces its history back to the winter of 1989, when a group of volunteers, including co-founders Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon, opened a short-term emergency shelter for chronically homeless men in the locker rooms of a vacant city recreation center. The shelter was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and was named Mother Katherine Drexel residence. Of the 88 men who stayed at the Residence for at least one month, many did return to the mainstream of society. At the end of the winter, at the urging of the community of homeless men and women, Project HOME began planning for a broader program of residential and support services.
Q: Is Project HOME a national organization?
No—although our programs are recognized as a national model, Project HOME focuses its work throughout the City of Philadelphia. We do quite a bit of advocacy at the Federal level and work with many national partners to promote positive public policies.
Q: How many staff members does Project HOME employ?
Project HOME has approximately 426 staff members, including both full- and part-time employees. A number of employees are Project HOME residents, former residents, or members of the North Central Philadelphia neighborhood where we focus our neighborhood revitalization efforts.
Q: How many people are unsheltered in Philadelphia?
The data from our homeless system in Philadelphia indicate that:
- Each year homeless outreach organizations engage over 6,500 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation.
- About 12,000 people (includes families) access shelter each year. In addition, numerous individuals are turned away from shelter for various reasons.
- At a given point in time, the City estimates we have an average of 788 people living on the streets. According to Philadelphia's Office of Homeless Services, 4,489 people experienced homelessness (both unsheltered and sheltered) in 2022
- It is difficult to calculate the exact number of unsheltered people living on the street, considering the number of individuals that live in obscure park areas, vehicles, or abandoned houses. The number of unsheltered people living on the street fluctuates seasonally and tends to rise in the summer months.
For additional information about homelessness and how we can address it, see our Facts on Homelessness.
Q: Why are people unsheltered or housing insecure?
Structural, personal, and political factors can result in homelessness and determine where it will occur most often.
- Poverty from a lack of jobs at competitive living wages
- Philadelphia has a 21.7 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation.
- Lack of adequate public supports and/or earned benefits
- Lack of affordable transportation
- Housing and transportation are the top two largest expenses for the typical American family.
- In Philadelphia moderate-income households people spend 52 percent of their income on housing and transportation (28 percent on housing and 25 percent on transportation).
- Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance.
- The impact of high housing costs falls disproportionately on extremely low-, very low-income and low- households, especially renters.
- 40 percent of Philadelphia renter households spend more than 30 percent on housing costs.
- 84 percent of Philadelphians making less than $20,000 in 2013 paid 30 percent or more of their household income on housing costs.
- Of poor households who pay more than 30 percent of income on housing, 88 percent of those spend more than 50 percent on housing.
- 42 percent of Philadelphia households are paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing.
- Severe overpaying occurs when households pay 50 percent or more of their gross income for housing.
- Lack of affordable health care
- Domestic violence
- Inadequate support for mental health and substance use challenges
- During the 2022 Point in Time street homeless count, 42 percent (1,559) of persons in both sheltered and unsheltered settings disclosed a history of mental health issues, whereas approximately 36 percent (1,317) of persons in both sheltered and unsheltered settings disclosed a history of substance use disorder.
- According to the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities (DBHIDS), over 90 percent of people living on the street have behavioral health challenges.
Q: Are Project HOME’s residences shelters?
No—none of our residences has a limit on the duration of a person’s stay. Our entry-level facilities—or safe havens—are different from shelters in that they are intensively service-enriched, there are clear individual goals developed and promoted, and there is no time limit on a person’s stay. The rest of our facilities are permanent supportive housing with residents signing at least a year’s lease.
Additionally, all Project HOME residences provide supportive services, ranging from case management to medical care to education and employment. Finally, all residents pay 30 percent of their income towards housing costs.
Q: Is Project HOME faith-based?
No, but as indicated in Project HOME’s values statement, our work is deeply rooted in a strong spiritual conviction of the dignity of each person.
Q: How do you get into a Project HOME program? Is there a waiting list?
Our referrals come from a variety of sources including the City of Philadelphia, Project HOME’s Outreach Coordination Center, case managers from other programs, and individuals themselves. If the person is currently homeless, the best way to access services is to call Project HOME’s Outreach Coordination Center at 215-232-1984. They will work with the person to find the most appropriate housing placement possible.
Depending on the site, some Project HOME programs have short waiting lists while others are much longer. Our Safe Havens use a priority system to help get people into the program who are most in need, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable people living on the streets.
We recognize there is a high demand for the supportive affordable housing that we offer and know that we must continue to advocate for more affordable housing so that everyone has a safe, affordable, and decent place to call home.
Q: Where does your funding come from?
Our latest financial information can be found here. Our financial portfolio is unusually diverse with about one-third of our funding derived from city, state, and federal government and the remaining through corporate, foundation, and individual contributions. Some of our income comes from resident rent, with residents contributing 30 percent of their income as rent and utilities.
Q: Where do the proceeds go from the various Project HOME businesses?
Proceeds from Project HOME Social Enterprise businesses support the creation of jobs by paying for staff wages and necessary training. Employees earn income while gaining marketable skills. Project HOME’s small businesses were designed to create jobs for people who have been homeless, or teens who want to try their own business ideas.
Q: What should I do if someone on the street asks me for money?
We often encounter persons on the streets who ask for money. Do not give a person money – instead, we should do what we can to help a homeless person get the appropriate services he or she needs to get off the streets.
- Always treat someone with respect and dignity.
- Greet a homeless person in a friendly manner.
- If you feel comfortable, offer to buy a cup of coffee or a meal.
- Inform him or her about available services (see our Where to Turn Guide and call the 24-Hour Homeless Outreach Hotline at 215-232-1984).
Whatever you do, the message we must all send is one of hope—recovery is possible and help is available when someone is ready.
If you are concerned about a person on the street who is mentally or physically impaired and needs help, call the Outreach Coordination Center at 215-232-1984.