Empowering Change: Rising Leader's Volunteer Experience with Project HOME

Annie Steele
headshot of woman smiling

Volunteering has always been a valuable experience to me. When I first started working in Philadelphia, I wanted to find a meaningful way to contribute my time and talents. During Pride Month, I am reminded of why and how I learned of Project HOME, and the incredible work I’ve seen accomplished through the mission.

I was first introduced to Project HOME in 2017 while attending a lecture by Dr. James Plumb at Thomas Jefferson University . He discussed public health concerns throughout the city and highlighted the role of Stephen Klein Wellness Center (SKWC) in addressing health disparities. What stood out to me during his talk was a group of individuals visiting corner stores to conduct blood pressure checks and provide health education to the community.    

During that class, I also learned that a person’s ZIP code could dictate their life expectancy. This disturbed me because no one chooses where they are born. I’m now a nurse and see firsthand how social determinants of health have a profound impact. Inspired by the initiative at SKWC, I started volunteering and officially joined Project HOME’s Rising Leader Committee later that same year.

As a queer woman, witnessing the grand opening of the Gloria Casarez Residence (GCR) in 2019 resonated deeply with me. Homelessness disproportionately affects the LGBTQ community; in Philadelphia, LGBTQ youth represent an estimated 40 percent of the young people experiencing homelessness. What really inspired me at this ceremony was that GCR represented a first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by providing 30 LGBTQ-friendly one-bedroom apartments for young adults who are homeless, have experienced or at risk of homelessness, including those who have aged-out of the foster care system. GCR also offers supportive services to help young people build a foundation to achieve their long-term goals. 

By advocating and supporting the mission of Project HOME, I am actively working to break the cycle of discrimination and promote equality.  

When we actively work together and respect the individuality of each person, we can do more to address the root causes of homelessness by increasing access to housing, healthcare, employment opportunities, and education. With each meeting, event, and volunteer opportunity I attend, I’m empowered to advocate for meaningful changes that can have a positive ripple effect. I hope it’s a change in which more people will want to join.  

Learn more about the work of the Rising Leaders committee.

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