A converted storefront in Philadelphia’s Suburban Station concourse has been turned into a a service center for homeless people. Its goal is to reach those most reluctant to accept help, those who have been living on the streets for a long time.
The “Hub of Hope” used to be a hair salon. Drapes now cover the mirrors, and sinks have been replaced with desks where staff taps away at keyboards.
The hub opens its doors at 7 a.m., and its staff members fan out to reach those staying in the concourse. They call the homeless population here “stayers,” people who are not leaving Suburban Station, who are using it as home base.
Jonathan Evans was once homeless himself, but is now working for the Mental Health Association of South Eastern Pennsylvania. His organization spearheads this project together with Project H.O.M.E. Evans supervises a staff of other formerly homeless people. After training, they are certified as “peer specialists.” Evans says their life experience makes them more effective in connecting to the concourse residents: “They have been there, and they can relate to people’s situations.”
Evans says one of the main goals is to build hope among the city’s most long-term homeless, and to let them know that people can help them.
Peer specialist Charlene Taylor works as the receptionist at the Hub of Hope, she says she feels an instant connection with homeless people she talks to each day.
“I like to share and I like to be able to say that I was in the same place you are in, and you can be where I am, too,” said Taylor.
Taylor says connecting to services, such as mental health counseling, changed her life. She hopes her story inspires others to seek help.
“I am happy today, I am contended, I have a roof over my head, I have food in my fridge,” said Taylor. “What more can I ask for?”
The hub offers basic medical care, and referrals for services such mental health counseling and housing. The Hub is open from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and will remain open until April.