I Am Project HOME: Allen Turner
If you pass Allen Turner at Project HOME’s 1515 Fairmount Avenue office and ask how he’s doing, his response will likely be, “It’s another day in the neighborhood!” He’s channeling PBS’s much-loved Fred Rogers, who’s known for saying “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” Allen’s version of the saying holds tremendous and deep meaning for him. It signifies how every day gives him one more chance to love, grow, change, and live.
You’d never know seeing him today that things had ever been any other way, but Allen has experienced hardships, including a decade of homelessness. “The grace of God has always put me in unique, challenging situations,” said Allen. You might be fooled into thinking that Allen is shy, but he has a superpower. At night, sometimes, he takes to the stage at spoken-word poetry events. That’s what connected him with Project HOME in the first place, and why he was asked to come speak at Homeless Memorial Day at City Hall a few years ago. “I get up there and it’s just a different feeling for me,” said Allen. “On stage I can be myself.”
Today, Allen is the start of a team of five employees and manages an inventory of tens of thousands of book donations to Project HOME Books, the new online bookstore started this year by Project HOME’s Social Enterprise Department. Social Enterprise is made up of small businesses designed to employ residents in a supportive, skill-building environment. Allen’s success in mastering the day-to-day operations of the store perhaps hides the hard-fought journey to pass some computer certification exams at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL). Once, after failing by a single point, Allen struggled for a few weeks to bounce back. But an HLCCTL instructor encouraged him to take it on the chin and keep fighting. Most importantly, he said he believed in Allen. “And honestly,” said Allen, “that’s the first time anybody actually said that they believed in me.”
And that belief in Allen continues in his new position with Social Enterprise through director Nic Watson. “Allen has been the perfect partner to start this bookstore project with,” said Nic. “His passion for the work, and optimism and dedication to finding solutions are key to the success that we’ve had in launching this business. He’s a leader in every sense.”
These are the moments of encouragement that have carried Allen through difficult times and why you will always see him smiling, as he continues to love, grow, change, and live another day in the neighborhood.