Project HOME is celebrating a major milestone.
Since 1989, the venerable nonprofit has created more than 1,000 units of affordable housing in Philadelphia. The Inn of Amazing Mercy, a 62-bed facility in the heart of Kensington, put the organization over the top.
“This building is a beacon of equity, love, community. It fosters neighborhood improvements, and human dignity, and wholeness,” said Sister Mary Scullion, outgoing executive director of Project HOME, during a Thursday ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $27 million revamp.
The mid-rise building dates back to 1900 and sits on the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospital off East Huntingdon Street. A total of 12 beds will provide short-term housing and recovery services to people experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder. Residents will be provided medication-assisted treatment, case management, and peer support.
The remaining beds are dedicated to permanent supportive housing, which offers people services and subsidized rent for an unlimited time as long as they are earning enough each month. At the Inn of Amazing Mercy, residents will be offered employment and education services, including on-the-job coaching and assistance securing certifications. The list includes forklift, ServSafe, and customer service training.
More than 50 people have already moved into the facility, including Richard Peterson, who was homeless and hopelessly addicted for most of his adult life before connecting with Project HOME a few years ago.
Sober for more than a year now, Peterson said the Inn of Amazing Mercy has given him the ability to focus on the next chapter of his life. A chapter that, for the first time, includes a place to call his own.
“Project HOME gave me space to breathe. It gave me a bridge to get healthy. I was finally able to focus on myself and take care of the issues that I had so I could be a contributing member of my community and not a burden to it,” said Peterson.
The Inn of Amazing Mercy, Project HOME’s 20th supportive housing project, is part of a pioneering effort to help tackle the city’s opioid epidemic, the epicenter of which is in Kensington.
The Estadt-Lubert Collaborative for Housing and Recovery will see the city’s biggest hospital systems — Jefferson Health, Penn Medicine, and Temple Health — team up with Project HOME to offer a seamless path to permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness and struggling with opioid addiction.
The initiative is designed to spur systemic change by moving people directly from the hospital into recovery using a combination of doctors, nurses, and certified recovery specialists versed in helping people in addiction.
Doctors say it is common for this population to put off needed medical care for a variety of reasons, making it an opportune place to get patients into recovery.
Getting this population off the street and into a place like the Inn of Amazing Mercy also makes it easier to ensure people are getting the healthcare they need, though Project HOME does provide medical services on the street.
“It’s really hard to provide excellent, person-centered, trauma-informed care on a sidewalk, under the deafening noise of the El, in full view of hundreds of people,” said Kara Cohen, associate medical director of Project HOME Healthcare Services.
Over the next five years, Project HOME plans to create a total of 150 beds in service of the collaborative. Some of them will be so-called entry-level beds — beds for people fresh out of the hospital who still need time to get stable. Others will be part of the nonprofit’s supply of permanent supportive housing. Subsidized by the federal government, these beds offer people an opportunity to continue their recovery while receiving social services.
Under the initiative, Project HOME plans to renovate some of its existing beds, but also develop new ones. That includes the 12 beds at the Inn of Amazing Mercy.
The project was funded through a mix of public and private dollars, some of which came from the JBJ Soul Foundation, founded by rock icon Jon Bon Jovi.
“We know that access to opportunities brings hope,” said Bon Jovi. “We can point to a moment in our own lives where we met the right person at the right time. Those partners involved here today are the right people and now is that right time.”
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