An Exercise in Grace
The following article is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of News From HOME, our quarterly print newsletter. If you want to subscribe, click here.
For the past six winters, Project HOME has operated an innovative seasonal program called the Hub of Hope. Located in the transit concourses under Two Penn Center, the Hub of Hope functions as a walk-in engagement center for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in Center City. Each year, it has proven to be an invaluable point of entry for some of the most vulnerable persons living on the streets. Each year, hundreds of persons accessed critically needed services, such as physical and behavioral healthcare, recovery services, and benefits. Each year, many of them moved into transitional or permanent housing, taking major steps to break the cycle of homelessness.
The Hub of Hope grew out of the realization that many of the men and women on the streets needed a centralized location in the areas where they stayed. It needed to be a low-barrier, supportive environment where they could be inspired to seek the help they needed, which could start right there onsite. Like everything we do at Project HOME, we worked with many tremendous partners to combine targeted effective services with a commitment to a spirit of relationship-building and community. Each season, we heard feedback from volunteers, participants, and staff that being at the Hub felt like a family.
Michelle Sheppard was a Hub guest in its first years, later a volunteer and now a staff member (and Project HOME resident). “The Hub gives people hope,” she says. “People can come get coffee, and they can laugh, joke, and be themselves. It lifts their spirits because people do care. When I was out there, that’s what the Hub did for me. It gave me strength to go on.”
With six years of proven success, it was time to take a risk and expand the program. Beginning in 2018, through a partnership between SEPTA, the City of Philadelphia, and Project HOME, the Hub of Hope will expand, moving into a permanent location in the concourse to offer year-round services.
The model of the Hub will not change: our Outreach Coordination Center staff, working with many of our partner agencies, will coordinate onsite services, healthcare, case management, and recovery. We will connect persons who need housing stability with short-term respite beds. We will continue the use of peer case aides, persons who themselves have experiences of homelessness and behavioral health struggles, to provide support and function as role models.
A larger space will now allow us to provide laundry, bathrooms and showers, lockers, and expanded hospitality services. The “Living Room” will be a safe and comfortable space for some of the most vulnerable individuals who come through our doors to rest and participate in recovery-oriented groups and activities. As in past years, we anticipate that supportive relationships will form, that can be transformative not only for the guests, but also for staff and volunteers.
“I’m really excited,” says Program Manager Angie Lewis. “Every year at the end of winter, we have felt that the work was unfinished and that many people were still in need of services. The year-round space will allow us to deepen the relationships we already have, while strengthening our partnerships and the comprehensive services we offer to fill in the gaps for people who really need services.”
We are grateful for the many wonderful agencies and organizations who have made the Hub a success in past - including Arch Street United Methodist Church - and will continue its success in its new year-round setting: Bethesda Project; Behavioral Health Special Initiative; Center City District; The City of Philadelphia (Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and the Office of Homeless Services); Einstein Healthcare Network; Jefferson Hospital; Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation; the Journey of Hope Project; Metro Market; the Outreach Coordination Center and Outreach teams including Hall Mercer, Horizon House, Mental Health Partnerships, ODAAT, SELF Inc., and Project HOME; Pennsylvania Recovery Organization - Achieving Community Together (PRO-ACT); Prevention Point; Project HOME Interns and Volunteers; Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC); Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA); Stephanie Sena and the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia; Project HOME’s Stephen Klein Wellness Center; Valley Youth House; and so many others
The Hub of Hope is a daily exercise in grace where great needs are linked to great resources. The Hub lives in the hearts of so many people who contribute large and small amounts to make it work. We are grateful that we can expand this work, and invite many more people on the journey home.
Along with the many partnering agencies, we will need committed, caring volunteers to continue the success of the newly expanded Hub. Volunteers play a critical role in fostering a spirit of hospitality, helping orient and support guests, offer refreshments and activities and occasional meals. If you are able to help contact email@example.com.
You can read the full report on the 2017 Report on the Hub of Hope here. at projecthome.org/posts/2017/05/hub-hope-outcomes-report-2017.