New Outreach Partnerships Bring Hope to Center City
They walk three abreast, one in a police uniform, another in a white Center City District (CCD) shirt with a purple hat, and a third wearing an orange vest with the words ‘Homeless Outreach’ on the back. Known as Ambassadors of Hope, this trio is pounding the pavement daily, stopping to talk to people they see experiencing homelessness, and bringing hope to each person they meet. “The thinking is that we can have a consistent presence in places where folks might spend their day,” explains Madelaine Guss, program manager for Project HOME’s Ambassadors of Hope. “These are places where we can really sit and connect with people on a long-term basis."
The program began as a six-month pilot between CCD, the Philadelphia Police, and Project HOME with support from the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavorial Health last year. It’s a unique approach - pairing a Project HOME outreach person with two other organizations that are helping people on Center City streets. “This collaboration makes it possible to better serve people on the street with services they need and prevents them from getting criminal citations or other interventions through law enforcement,” says Project HOME Executive Director Sister Mary Scullion. “This collaboration enhances communication and efficiency between these three organizations since all of us get calls for help for people who are living on the street.”
As the teams took to the streets in 2018, the numbers of people they could help together started to add up. Over 130 people who were experiencing homelessness came in off the street and secured appropriate services. CCD provided transportation, easing the connection to services for many who had been reluctant to accept help. “We’ve been really pleased with the results achieved through this unique collaborative effort in which people from very different disciplines, skills and organizations work together each day to connect so many people with the services and help they need,” says Paul R. Levy, President of CCD. Continuing this program made sense to all involved and Levy says, “by the end of September this year, we’ve already far exceeded the success of last year.”
In 2019, two street teams were added, funded by Center City District, working Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and two more individuals stationed at Reading Terminal Market, funded by the Market. Additional teams will be added to serve inside Philly’s newly opened Fashion District. Through the generosity of Lynne Honickman, in honor of her husband Harold’s birthday, the Harold A. Honickman Ambassadors of Hope Fund was established to help meet the varying individual needs of folks being brought in, such as purchasing a new pair of shoes or helping someone travel to get back home to another city or state.
Outreach is, and always has been, central to Project HOME’s work and without it, people like Jenese, who through the help of outreach now lives at our 1515 Fairmount Avenue residence, would still be feeling marginalized and insecure about her future. “I don’t have to worry about where I go next,” says Jenese, “I have structure and that insecurity has gone.”
Jenese experienced homelessness on Philly’s streets for over a decade. She was struggling with managing her diabetes because she didn’t have anywhere cold to store her insulin medication, her health was deteriorating. The only consistency in her life during this time was her interactions with Project HOME outreach workers. "Outreach people are really helpful,” says Jenese, “if you need anything, you can go to them and they’ll help you with resources.”
“A lot of our job is advocacy and doing all we can to get these folks in,” says outreach program manager Jonathan Juckett. But he says there aren’t enough resources for everyone, and it can be tough when you convince someone to come in, and there’s nowhere for them to stay. Juckett oversees Project HOME’s traditional outreach which is managed through the Outreach Coordination Center (OCC), a 24-hour service with a dedicated hotline (215-232-1984) (for more information on our OCC see our archived article “Taking It to the Streets”).
The ultimate reward for staff who do outreach at Project HOME whether through our traditional programs or our new Ambassadors of Hope, Juckett explains, is when you reach those individuals who have been out there for a long time. Finding the right program that fits that person's need, and helping them achieve what they've been seeking, Juckett says provides outreach workers with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. “When I see outreach workers really investing a lot of time in specific cases to overcome a lot of barriers to advocate for the people in front of them, those are always the cases that really make me love this job.”
Project HOME’s Outreach 101:
- Outreach Coordination Center (OCC): Processes calls coming into the Homeless Outreach Hotline (215-232-1984).
- Seven different agencies staff outreach with Project HOME: The Department of Behavioral Health, One Day at a Time (ODAAT), Mental Health Partnerships, SELF Inc., Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center, Horizon House and Prevention Point.
- Ambassadors of Hope is a new partnership with Center City District and the Philadelphia Police, with strong support from the Department of Behavioral Health. There are three teams; Reading Terminal Market, Center City and the newly opened Fashion District.