Travelers Aid Philadelphia needs a helping hand

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I’m sorry to clog your email boxes during this holiday season. This is important, though, and I appreciate you taking the time to read this email.

This weekend there was an article on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer about Travelers Aid Philadelphia (TAP). This is a 107-year-old social service organization, whose board I sit on. TAP provides housing and support for homeless families in Philadelphia, and until recently has provided services for assisting stranded travelers.

In the city’s recent budget cuts, Travelers Aid’s entire budget of about $300,000 for stranded traveler services was eliminated, leaving no help for this population. What does this mean? In short, there will be literally thousands of people added to Philadelphia’s street homeless next year.

Who are stranded travelers? To quote from the Inquirer article: “An elderly couple from Lancaster who returned to Philadelphia to live but could not get into a shelter because they were nonresidents. … A mother of five from Minnesota who moved back with relatives until they asked her to move out because of her family’s size. … An abused woman whose partner tracked her down at a shelter here.”

These are people who, without Travelers Aid’s help, will end up on the street. Many people do not realize how many “homeless” people actually have a support system somewhere else — family in St. Louis, a job in Baltimore — and they just need to get back there. If they do not receive help, they will end up in Philadelphia’s shelter system or on the streets. Here are some numbers to put the situation in perspective:

– There are over 10,000 people who become stranded in Philadelphia each year.

– TAP provides crisis case management, temporary shelter and food (which is usually needed for only a few days), and transportation assistance to about 1,200 stranded travelers each year.

– This year, from July 1, 2008 through November 30, 2008 TAP was been contacted by 1,385 persons asking for assistance.

– For the past 30 years, Travelers Aid has had contracts with the City of Philadelphia for assisting stranded travelers. By December 15, 2008 all of TAP’s services had to end.

– Travelers Aid can help stranded travelers for less than $200 per person. That is much less than the cost to the City to have them on the streets.

TAP is an organization that has been quietly doing its job very effectively. Without funding, its lack of services will become very apparent. I urge you to read the Inquirer article, and if you are looking to make a last-minute, end-of-year charitable donation to help those in need, please donate to Travelers Aid Philadelphia.

You can make a donation online here:
You can read the Inquirer article here:

Again, sorry for the mass email. Happy holidays, and best wishes for a happy New Year!

Greg Heller
Posted by Matt Golas

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