After more than 3 decades, Philly’s Project HOME co-founders are stepping down

Project HOME was born out of a swimming pool locker room. Next week, it will open its 1,000th unit of housing in Philly.

A close-up of Sister Mary Scullion

Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME speaks during a news conference introducing a new add campaign designed to reach homeless people directly in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

For more than 30 years, Sister Mary Scullion and Joan McConnon have provided Philadelphians experiencing homelessness with places to stay through Project HOME. In December 2024, the two co-founders will be stepping down.

The duo started the organization in a locker room of a swimming pool, and next week will open its 1,000th housing unit within the city of Philadelphia.

In an interview with WHYY News, Sister Mary Scullion said it’s important to provide people with the opportunity to provide for themselves.

Joan Dawson McConnon, Associate Executive Director of Project, speaks at a podium.
Joan Dawson McConnon, Associate Executive Director of Project HOME, explains the rollout of the Estadt-Lubert Collaborative for Housing and Recovery on May 31, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“It’s just so amazing to see people that aren’t merely surviving, but they’re thriving and giving people the opportunities that all of us are given right? This is America,” Scullion said.

“This is equal opportunity for all. And if anything, I see how unequal the opportunities are, but I also see how many leaders and philanthropists and people that are unsheltered all can work together to create those opportunities so that everybody can have a place to call home.”

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In a release, Scullion said she’s proud of the progress Project HOME has made in ending and preventing chronic street homelessness in Philadelphia.

“While there is more work to be done, I have unshakeable faith in the Project HOME community of staff and residents and our many partners – trustees, donors, committee members, volunteers and more – to move our mission forward,” Scullion said.

McConnon said the organization is “extremely-well positioned” for future success and will continue to “create opportunities for those who are struggling to find their way home.”

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“Together, Mary and I believe the time is right to start this transition, which we’re certain is the beginning of an incredibly positive next chapter in the story of Project HOME,” McConnon said in a release. “I’m so deeply appreciative for all this community has given to me and my family and I cannot imagine spending my career doing anything else. It has been life-changing in the very best way.”

The search for the organization’s next executive director will start Aug. 1.

During the organization’s 2022 fiscal year, Project HOME’s operating revenue was $50,287,320. High schoolers within the units also maintained a 100% graduation rate during that time period, and 94% of residents in permanent housing remained stably housed for at least a year.

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