Tall, dignified, and sharply dressed, David Brown cuts an impressive figure. It’s a far cry from what he looked like just a few years ago.
When Project HOME was just starting out in 1989, David Brown had already logged several years on the streets. In fact, he spent 25 years on the streets – most of them under the awning of the old Youth Study Center, now the site of the Barnes Foundation. A troubled youth with little education or work experience gave him few options, so he toughed it out, along with many others experiencing chronic homelessness.
Almost all of his street companions from those days are dead. His years of resistance ended in 2011 when, seeking care for urgent medical issues, he came in and began dramatically changing his life. David now lives in an immaculately clean studio apartment at James Widener Ray Homes. He is making up for his early years of education deficits by taking classes at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs.
And several days a week David can found at the HOME Spun Resale Boutique, where he is employed plying his people skills as an avid salesman. “Employment and being in a working atmosphere are a very important part of getting back into society,” David says. “I’m happy to be part of Project HOME’s employment program – it gives me stability, a sense of accomplishment, and a goal of getting up every day and going to work.”
Many years ago, Tanisha Clanton might have seemed like one of the countless children in Philadelphia facing a bleak future. Her family life was marked by homelessness, addiction, and instability.
But in 2000, they moved into Project HOME’s newly developed Rowan Homes, which opened up tremendous new possibilities for Tanisha. Many of those possibilities were found right across the street, at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL). For several years, Tanisha was a regular participant in the Center’s education programs, even working as a teacher’s assistant in the Teen Program and starting her own water ice business through the Harold A. Honickman Entrepreneurial Program.
In 2012, she became a trailblazer for Project HOME, graduating from Albright College with a degree in art – the first graduate from our College Access Program. The trail she blazed has since been well trodden: Over 50 youth from the HLCCTL have been to college, with eight graduated and one in graduate school. After working for several years as an art instructor for children in struggling communities,Tanisha has come on staff, working as a job coach in Project HOME’s Employment Services department.
She knows the importance of seizing opportunities that are offered, and is now using her skills to empower others to seize opportunities and open up positive futures. “My time at Project HOME, with my mother,” she says with a gleam, “has shaped what was once an unhappy, shattered girl into a more confident, beautiful, happier young woman.”
Dionne Stallworth insists that you can’t fully understand her if you don’t understand her attraction to superheroes.
Her posters of Batman, Wonder Woman, et al, testify to her belief that “one person has the power to bring about change.” Dionne has been bringing about change for many years – starting with herself. From her battles with mental illness and homelessness, she has found a home at Project HOME’s Connelly House.
And she has found a sense of home in her identify as a transgendered woman. A veteran of military service, Dionne has been a hero in the broader society, too, winning awards for her pioneering work in the LGBT movement, advocating for political empowerment and health issues for transgendered persons. Within the Project HOME community, Dionne has been a culture maven, sharing her encyclopedic knowledge of television and movies, even putting on periodic movie nights and other educational and entertainment events for residents.
Dionne’s wry humor blends with deep social analysis, all wrapped in a fierce commitment to human dignity and inclusivity. You might even think she has super powers.
Staff Social Enterprise Associate, Jamila James, joined Social Enterprise while she was a resident of Women of Change safe haven in Center City. While she lived there during the summer of 2013, HOME Made gift enterprise partnered with a local jewelry artisan to create a limited run of handmade jewelry made by the ladies at Women of Change.
Through the workshops at her residence, Jamila learned how to construct necklaces, bracelets and earrings, and earned piecemeal income by selling her jewelry to the HOME Made enterprise. Inspired by this new challenge, she wrote a piece of poetry that won a contest and was featured inside a Project HOME holiday card. Shortly thereafter, she applied—and was hired—for an administrative and sales position in the newly reorganized Social Enterprise Department.
Since fall 2013, Jamila has worked on the enterprise team, contributing to sales and day-to-day operations of the department. Jamila speaks candidly about how depression and isolation have impacted her past and present, and speaks with hope and strength about the goals she has for herself, including increased leadership in the enterprises, and greater financial independence. During the holiday season, Jamila packaged candles and prepared online store orders for shipment. After developing packaging skills, she began staffing sales events, and continues to assimilate to her work environment when she is asked to complete tasks over email.
Today, Jamila manages the HOME Made gift line inventory, supports volunteers and hosts guests to the enterprises regularly and conducts sales events on her own. She has moved from Women of Change to her own apartment, and continues to work at the enterprises as a proud Project HOME alumna.