Project HOME reinvents fundraiser

Project HOME opened the Maguire Residence, a 42-unit building for people who used to be homeless, in June. PHOTO: Jay Gorodetzer

In a normal year, Project HOME, one of the major nonprofits serving the homeless population in Philadelphia, holds its most important fundraiser right after Memorial Day.

There was hope that the event, “Bring Philly HOME,” could be held in-person, but, once it became clear that large gatherings would likely remain prohibited for the foreseeable future, the organization’s leaders decided to move it online.

“We can actually show more of Project HOME than we would during a normal event,” said Annette Jeffrey, the nonprofit’s vice president of development and communications.

Bring Philly HOME will be broadcast on the nonprofit’s website beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Instead of tempering fundraising goals, organizers decided to raise the target, an attempt to respond to increasing need due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. They initially wanted to raise $150,000, and now believe they could hit $200,000.

“Right now, more than ever, people on our streets are really suffering and struggling, but there are things that people can do to help,” Jeffrey told Metro.

The event will feature video tours of the Hub of Hope and the Maguire Residence, a 42-unit property housing formerly homeless people in Kensington that opened in June.

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi, Phillies manager Joe Girardi, “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert and “Survivor” winner Wendell Holland will make guest appearances on the program, which will also include a silent auction, presentations and a message from Project HOME founder Sister Mary Scullion.

Project HOME, which spent nearly $40 million in the 2019 fiscal year, has had to change some aspects of its work as a result of COVID-19.

The Hub of Hope, the organization’s center at SEPTA’s Suburban Station, has set up some street-level tents near Broad Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to decrease its indoor capacity.

Homeless individuals can still visit the facility for coronavirus testing, healthcare screenings, showers and resources, Jeffrey said.

People line up at tents above the Hub of Hope. PHOTO: Provided

“What we’ve seen is a big increase in the need for food,” she added, explaining that requests for food have grown 400% since the pandemic.

In recent weeks, protest encampments on the Parkway and Ridge Avenue have drawn increasing attention to the issues of homelessness and affordable housing.

Jeffrey said Project HOME has sent representatives to the camps on a daily basis to offer help. The organization oversees a total of 936 low-income housing units at 18 properties for people who used to be homeless.

There were about 960 people sleeping on the streets during the city’s annual “point-in-time” census in late January, and an additional 4,700 living in shelters and other temporary housing.

Jeffrey said Project HOME conducted a count last week, and results are still being tallied.

“It does seem like the numbers have gone up a bit,” she said. “We’re very concerned about the moratorium on evictions expiring and what that’s going to look like in the next month.”

Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide moratorium expired Sept. 1, and, last week, Philadelphia Municipal Court leadership decided to suspend evictions until Sept. 23.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order allows tenants struggling to pay their rent to fill out a form to delay eviction through the end of the year. Councilwoman Helen Gym also introduced legislation last Thursday to reinstate the city’s moratorium and extend it to Dec. 31.

Those interested in attending Bring Philly HOME should go to www.projecthome.org/bring-philly-home-2020 at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The event can also be accessed through Project HOME’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/projectHOME.

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