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A First to Help Philadelphia's Homeless

Heather Redfern
Public Information Manager

For the past six winters, Project HOME's Hub of Hope has served as a gateway to vital services and care for thousands of Philadelphia's homeless during the year's most brutally cold months. Operating in a 150-square foot storefront in Suburban Station, the Hub of Hope placed thousands into shelter, treatment and other housing options throughout Philadelphia. In 2017, 1,462 individuals visited Hub of Hope more than 11,000 times.

But homelessness is a year-round -not a seasonal- issue. In order to better assist those experiencing chronic homelessness in Center City, Hub of Hope would need a larger facility, open every day, not just January-April. On January 30, Project HOME, the City of Philadelphia and SEPTA celebrated the opening of the new 11,000 square-foot permanent Hub of Hope, located in the Center City sub-concourse. The facility is the result of a first-of-its-kind partnership with a social services agency, a municipality and a transportation authority.

"SEPTA is not only in the transportation industry, we are also in the community service business and we are proud of our role as a partner in working to find solutions to the Philadelphia region's needs," said SEPTA Chairman Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. "Beyond the human toll of homelessness and poverty, homelessness presents unique challenges for SEPTA and our customers, especially in Center City. That is why SEPTA and our Board are proud to support the Hub of Hope to help those struggling with homelessness."

Philadelphia Mayor James F. Kenney applauded the Authority's role in the new facility. "I want to thank SEPTA's Jeff Knueppel and Pat Deon," Kenney said. "SEPTA is the first transit system in the country to set up a daytime center for the homeless. SEPTA is the first to say the humane solution for homelessness is a business priority for them and the first to make it happen. This is a big deal."

The new Hub of Hope is located in an underground concourse space that was previously used by the Philadelphia Police Department's Transit Division about 25 years ago. "This was a very ambitious project with a rigid deadline," said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. "We started construction in mid-August 2017, and had to be ready for opening in January. Crews of in-house employees and contractors worked tirelessly around the clock to meet the challenge. What they accomplished in such a short period of time is a testament to the commitment we have to helping the city's homeless."

Staff at the expanded, permanent Hub of Hope will continue to engage, assess and place individuals experiencing homelessness into shelter, treatment or other long-term housing opportunities with supportive services. Visitors will be able to speak to peers or case managers, take a shower and wash laundry in a safe and warm environment, receive medical and behavioral healthcare, enjoy a cup of coffee and a meal, and get linked to recovery services and programs.

"Today we take the next step in the city's commitment to end street homelessness," said Sister Mary Scullion, Project HOME co-founder and Executive Director. "At the newly expanded Hub of Hope, we will be able to engage people where they are. However, as we know there is much more to do. But we have hope because of all of the people that have worked to make this possible."

"The ultimate journey we are all taking because we all believe that none of us are home until all of us are home," Scullion added.

The new Hub of Hope came to be not only due to the partnership of Project HOME, the City of Philadelphia and SEPTA, but also through start-up funding made possible through the support of many individuals, organizations and businesses, including: Bank of America; Lynne and Harold Honickman; Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation; Leigh and John Middleton; Aileen and Brian Roberts; Wawa, Inc.; and A. Morris Williams, Jr.

"We at the JBJ Soul Foundation are proud to be part of the Hub of Hope since its inception," said Jon Bon Jovi. "Today, look at what this has become. I am grateful for all of your ongoing support and that all of those that are in need of a handout have another place to find support."

The success of the Hub of Hope and Project HOME is measured by the thousands of lives the organization has touched. Dana Barkley, Richard Geist and Solomon Frazier are three of those who have been helped by Project HOME -and all three are current successful SEPTA employees.

"I've been at SEPTA going on five years and it's been a lovely ride," said Frazier. "But I didn't see it at first. I didn't even think I'd get into SEPTA because of the way I was living and the way I was thinking. But I got with Project HOME and they gave me some hope. They gave me some direction and opportunities. I'm not going to do anything to mess it up."

Frazier added, "I never thought I could be here in front of all of you and talking about something positive. Today, I can do that because I've learned to change my behavior and attitude. Today I want to live just like everyone else does and it's only through Project HOME and working at SEPTA that I've been granted those privileges."

The Hub of Hope is located in the Center City sub-concourse, in an 11,000 square-foot space. (Photo by Adam Dall)

SEPTA Board Chairman Deon and GM Knueppel tour the Hub of Hope's laundry facilities with SEPTA Board members and officials.(Photo by Adam Dall)

Sister Mary Scullion speaks about what the new Hub of Hope means to Project HOME. (Photo by Adam Dall)

SEPTA GM Knueppel thanks SEPTA in-house crews and contractors for their work to complete the facility in just five months. (Photo by Adam Dall)

From left: SEPTA Employees Solomon Frazier, Richard Geist and Dana Barkley, shown with SEPTA Chairman Deon, have used from Project HOME's services to get their lives back on track. (Photo by Adam Dall)