I am Project HOME: Millie Korn
This story originally appeared in our Winter Edition of News from HOME.
About 20 years ago, a friend of Millie Korn’s, Bill Harvey, who was then on Project HOME’s Board of Trustees, told her, “I have a group I think you should work with.” Millie, a native of Philadelphia, has run a title insurance agency for the last 30 years. The new client, she found out, was Project HOME. “Ever since, it’s been a wonderful working relationship,” she says.
And a vital one for our housing work. Millie has helped secure titles for all of our housing developments for the past two decades. It’s one of those essential but behind-the-scenes, nuts-and-bolts job without which we could never fulfill our mission of ending homelessness. Hundreds of residents have been able to come home with Millie’s support.
Millie finds it professionally and personally rewarding she says. “It’s an incredible team doing remarkable work.” She has thought of herself as someone “on the outside” of our mission, contributing her part for the deals. But this past summer, she says, she got an unexpected experience of what it means to be “on the inside.”
Millie learned from neighbors about a family that was living in Washington Square near her home. Millie decided to get to know the family – consisting of a 77-year-old grandmother in a wheelchair), her son, and her daughter-in-law (the couple’s 10-year-old daughter was in foster care at the time). They had been homeless for several months after being evicted from their apartment. They also had multiple complications in their lives, including physical and mental health issues. Millie offered to try to help them – and reached out to Project HOME’s Outreach teams and to Sister Mary Scullion, our Executive Director.
For the next several months, Millie became an unofficial case worker, working tirelessly against numerous obstacles to help them get off the streets. Along the way, she grasped the reality of the long waiting lists and the glaring inadequacy of affordable housing. She convinced the grandmother to take a temporary bed at Project HOME’s Women of Change safe haven. “When I went to visit a few days later, she was well rested and smiling,” Millie said. “She had heat and could take a shower – and she told me she was never going to be homeless again.” With support from Project HOME staff and many neighbors, she was eventually able to find the grandmother permanent housing, where she is deeply happy and feels safe. Shortly after that, she convinced the daughter-in-law to come in to Women of Change, where she still resides. She is still working (in collaboration with outreach workers) on the son, who remains on the street, she is hopeful: “Until he is in housing, my job isn’t done.”
But more than her improvised social work skills, Millie became a friend to this family. She regularly visits the grandmother, and stays connected to the daughter-in-law and son. She also engaged many of her friends and neighbors, who offered tremendous support to the family, especially the grandmother as she moved into her new home.
“If it weren’t for Millie, outreach efforts with this family would never have been so successful,” says Sister Mary. “It just shows how we are all part of the solution, and if more people get involved, we will have more success.”
Millie says the whole experience has “restored my faith in humankind. It was great to see my friends and colleagues really caring and rallying to help this family on the streets. At the end of the day they’re human beings, they feel the same way we do.” And when people understand that, beautiful things can happen.