I recently joined the board of directors of The Philadelphia Committee to END Homelessness.
That's right. End it.
Our philosophy is simple: we believe believe that the best way to help homeless and at-risk individuals and families is to secure them housing first, then connecting them to the mainstream and neighborhood services they need to maintain permanent housing. This community-based approach helps prevent people from entering the homeless service system, and helps those already homeless to rapidly exit the cycle of temporary solutions. Give people the stability and dignity that permanent housing affords, rather than use the more expensive shelter system as a bandaid.
Our plan is called Safe Home Philadelphia. Because we don't accept public money, we exist outside the network of service providers dependent on a constant supply of homeless people to fill our shelter beds and keep people employed. Indeed, when we have finished our plan, we want to turn our offices into more family housing, and declare ourselves out of business.
Here are some of our success stories this year:
- Nanette, her 18 month-old daughter and 6 year-old son were constantly moving between friends and family while she desperately tried to create a normal life for her family. SafeHome Philadelphia found her a modest apartment, helped her move in, arranged for IKEA Philadelphia to donate bunk beds, installed smoke detectors and arranged for separate electric metering. Nanette is thrilled to have her very own kitchen, is able to look for work and is proud that her son is enrolled permanently in a local school.
- Juanita was afraid for her own life and her teenaged daughter was threatening to run away from home because of unrelenting abuse. It was literally at the 11th hour when their call for help came. SafeHome Philadelphia helped Juanita remain in a welfare-to-work program so important to her future, and paid the security deposit on a one-bedroom apartment. Juanita's terror is over and her situation stabilized to the point where she confidently looks forward to being self-sufficient in no time.
- Having lost his job, Tom and his pregnant girlfriend Tanya were scheduled for eviction on December 12th. Without other resources, the shelter system loomed large. SafeHome Philadelphia moved Tom and Tanya into their new apartment on December 11th, pre-paid the required 3 months rent (security deposit, first and last month) and helped Tom locate a part-time second job to ensure that rent will be paid. Having helped Tanya sign up for medical and other benefits, she is able to confidently prepare for their new arrival.
Want to help the homeless? Help us help them no longer be homeless. We know what works; give us the resources to succeed.
What's important here is to realize that homelessness is not a permanent, intractable condition. We can do something about it.
Thanks for your time. Help us if you can.