Fiscal Year 2016: Our Impact
In the fall of 2014, as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) planning group were preparing for the WMOF and the Papal Visit in September 2015, Archbishop Charles Chaput reached out to Sister Mary Scullion of Project HOME, inviting her to form and chair a special committee that would address issues of homelessness and hunger. The idea for such a committee was a response to Pope Francis’ strong public witness to issues of compassion and justice, and his constant call to the church and to the world to reach out to those who were poor and marginalized. The leadership of the WMOF understood that such an initiative was an appropriate part of planning for and welcoming the Pope Francis to Philadelphia. By late spring, the Hunger and Homelessness Committee had formulated an overall integrated campaign to fulfill its mission. It was called the Mercy and Justice Campaign, and was comprised of three components:
- The Francis Fund
- The Campaign for Justice
- The Undoing the Knots Project
The history of the Mercy and Justice Campaign can be found here.
On Wednesday, May 4, we joined the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation to celebrate the grand opening of Francis House of Peace, which will bring 94 units of affordable housing to the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Joseph Hill-Coles, a young adult resident of the new residence, shared his powerful story at the event.
Charles is so excited to share his story with you. “I only wish you had a real picture of me when I slept in this park. You wouldn’t recognize me. My life has changed so much.” Charles had a good job and a family. Unfortunately, he suffered from depression which led to drug and alcohol abuse. His struggle with addiction resulted in a downward spiral culminating in his wife packing up and leaving with their children.
“I felt I had lost everything that mattered,” he said. “On top of everything, my brother passed away, and I was overcome with grief. I lost my job as a security officer and could no longer afford my home.”
He had nowhere to stay, and Charles started sleeping in Rittenhouse Square and in shelters. His mental health continued to falter, and it was during this time that he was diagnosed with severe diabetes and told if he did not stop his drug and alcohol abuse, he would die. It was then and there that Charles began his path to recovery. Charles sought help and met with a case worker who connected him with Project HOME, where he found housing, supportive staff, job training, and education.
He has lived at Connelly House in Center City for five years, and credits the staff, programs, and generous supporters like you with keeping him on the right track.
“Project HOME gave me the support I needed. The folks there made sure I received help to get me back on my feet. It has been an eight year journey, and I am proud to say I have been clean and sober during this time. I have connected with my kids, and I feel like my life is beautiful again! I thank Project HOME and all the people who support the organization–I feel like I am ready to get back into the community and live my life!”
"I go in a circle,” Tanya Clanton says with a laugh. She’s describing her path from her Project HOME apartment at Rowan Homes to her job as a special education classroom assistant and then to her second job as a counselor at the R.W. Brown Community Center’s afterschool program.
All are located not far from the area where Tanya grew up, the youngest of nine kids. “I was raised by a single mother,” she says. “Everyone is busy. You do a lot of thinking for yourself, make a lot of decisions on your own.” Tanya came to Project HOME about 15 years ago. She had completed a recovery program and was looking for affordable housing for herself and her three children.
“At Rowan Homes they offered a lot of the services I needed at the time: case management, playground, parenting classes. That was important to me.” Her youngest was three at the time. “It felt like we were home.”
In 2005, Tanya worked in Project HOME’s temporary shelter for people who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Then she joined the staff of our Kate’s Place residence. For the past 10 years she has worked for the Philadelphia School District in various capacities. At Hartranft School, Tanya works in the classroom with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who have autism. She marvels at how they each learn at different levels and master skills in their own timeframe. “They each have their own unique way of doing things.”
“One of my kids asked me, ‘Why are you smiling all the time?’ It’s true. I said, ‘Because God gave me another day.’ It’s true. I wake up happy most mornings.” Tanya is quick with a smile even at the end of an extended work day.
“I see so many angry kids. It’s because it’s in their environment. You need to look to the parents. If they need it, you show them nurturing. Sometimes they bring the street with them, but I know the street,” she says with a wise smile.
Family is central to Tanya—and Project HOME has worked with Tanya to empower her family to reach its fullest potential. All three of her children participated in the College Access Program (CAP) at our Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs. Her oldest daughter Tanisha is one of the first to come through the CAP and graduate college; she currently works at Project HOME’s main office. “I’m so happy for her. She worked hard. We all worked hard.” Her two younger children are currently in college. She sees a bright future with a solid educational foundation for all of them.
After a long school and afterschool day, Tanya says she needs to pick up a couple of neighbors to take them grocery shopping. “They don’t have a car,” she explains. “They need help. People helped me when I needed it.
“It’s a circle I move in. It is by the grace of God I can do it.”