When an unassuming small red ribbon tied to handrails on either side of a ramp along side of 5151 Wayne Ave. was cut in half Tuesday morning, it ceremonially marked a recovery of sorts for a Dignity Housing facility in Germantown.
The 11 a.m. event, which drew U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Dignity Housing Executive Director Beverly Roberts and beaming residents, marked the opening of a Resource and Opportunity Center in the unassuming Wayne Avenue facility.
Established in Germantown
To be sure, Dignity Housing is not a newcomer to homeless advocacy. Over the past quarter century, it has served more than 3,000 adults and children by, in part, providing 150 units of affordable housing and helping 45 “Dignity graduates” become homeowners.
What marked Tuesday as a special event for the group was that it showed what was made possible through a $190,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Economic Development Initiative.
Roberts explained that the building, which offers shelter to female victims of domestic violence and those battling the demons of substance abuse, had been wrecked through flooding.
On Tuesday, however, no signs of that wasteland were visible in one of three Dignity units in the immediate area.
Signs of progress
Instead, on the ground floor of a building containing 16 housing units, there was a computer lab (run in concert with the People’s Emergency Center) and educational area offering everything from adult GED classes to support groups and family activities.
“Our goal is to help our residents become self-sufficient,” said Roberts, noting how different the facility looked after the refurbishment and leading visitors on a tour of the facility.
Elected officials react
Fattah, who visited the site en route to the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s funeral was awarded with a “Champion of Dignity” award from the group. He drew a parallel between Specter’s rise to success despite early political losses and what Dignity hopes to accomplish.
“It’s what you do when faced with difficulties that matters most,” he said, explaining that the HUD money came out of efforts when Bass worked in his office prior to being elected City Councilwoman last year.
He also congratulated Roberts and Dignity Housing as a whole for “25 years of outstanding service to homeless families and individuals.”
“This was one of those projects that we felt strongly about, that we needed to find resources even at a time when it’s difficult to get resources out of Washington D.C. to bring back to Philadelphia,” Bass said. “This was a priority for myself and [Fattah]. We just couldn’t let it go.”