Roots and Branches: Reflections from Sister Mary
This story originally appeared in our Spring 2019 Edition of News from HOME.
Throughout 2019, Project HOME is marking its 30th Anniversary. A lot can change in 30 years – and we at Project HOME have gone through plenty of change, as has our society.
What started as a small crew of mostly unpaid volunteers building community with some of the most fragile men on the streets has developed and flourished into 16 residences, an education and technology center, a wellness center, a community center, and an engagement center for persons still on the streets.
Thirty years ago, the predominant face of homelessness was those persons on the streets struggling with mental illness. The widespread fear and ignorance forced us to deal with NIMBY-ism (“Not In My Back Yard”), opposition from community groups who did not want residences in their neighborhood (see “Free At Last!”).
Three decades later, more and more people understand that homelessness can impact anybody, so issues of NIMBY-ism are not as prevalent. In fact, the neighborhood association, which once spearheaded opposition to our 1515 Fairmount development, are now supporters and valued partners – including lending their support to the development of JBJ Soul Homes in the next block, which included the pilot residential program for young adults (see “The Future Has Never Looked Brighter”)
Today, the face of homelessness is different in many ways. As we have written about, more and more young people are homeless or on the brink of homelessness, and we are adapting our programs to offer the most effective solutions. Also, we see the on-the-ground reality of the national opioid crisis in our own city. And we are working intensely to develop a comprehensive strategy for the Kensington neighborhood, the ground zero of the local crisis, with appropriate housing and services to meet those urgent needs. The cost of housing continues to rise, forcing more low-income families into homelessness or poor-quality housing.
In so many ways, life is change. As society changes and the contributing factors to homelessness take shape, we have had to be flexible in how we live out our mission of ending homelessness. Over the past three decades, our programs and services and approaches have had to evolve and change and will continue to do so to meet new challenges.
Yet, at the same time, some things are constant. The core values that ground our mission are unshakeable: our commitment to human dignity, community, inclusion, and justice. Also constant is the spirit of hope that has always animated our work. So many of you are the bearers of that hope and with your support we turn hope into reality. May that hope continue to empower us for the decades to come.