by Samuel Frost
Philadelphia was experiencing a housing disaster earlier than the arrival of COVID, and the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Community (PIHN) has been responding to group wants with its holistic mannequin because the begin of the pandemic.
PIHN has served the Northwestern Philadelphia space for practically 30 years utilizing locations of worship, similar to church buildings, synagogues and mosques, to offer shelter for homeless households.
Throughout its early years as an emergency shelter at Mt Ethereal, the Community developed a technique to keep up contact with households who’re graduating from its program.
“We’re really dedicated to persevering with to offer for our alumni households after they go away our shelter program. So long as households have an interest, we’ll be there for them. mentioned Bob Byrne, director of operations at PIHN.
The group started accepting materials donations similar to furnishings and home items and distributing them to alumni households as this system grew.
“We have now made the choice to open these similar companies to anybody locally who involves us,” he mentioned. “We truly discovered that we have been receiving so many donations that we might assist a bigger group.”
Over the previous 5 years, PIHN has developed a lease help program by offering households in danger with non-public funding to cowl the prices of sustaining their present place of residence.
This system has grown to be bigger than the unique shelter program on which the Community was based.
“We began serving to households and we realized that one of the simplest ways to assist households cope with the danger of homelessness is to forestall homelessness within the first place,” mentioned Government Director Rachel Falkove.
Housing was as soon as a step earlier than getting reasonably priced housing, she mentioned, however as housing turned much less reasonably priced for a lot of metropolis dwellers, folks have been residing longer stays.
“After I first acquired right here 20 years in the past, they have been happening common about two months per keep,” Falklove mentioned. “By the point we began our prevention program, they have been underway a yr earlier than we might put them in housing they may maintain.
Because the pandemic elevated the danger of homelessness, the Community’s lease help program helped 181 households repay lease to keep away from evictions in 2020, an 80% improve from the earlier yr.
The pandemic has additionally compelled nonprofits to adapt their fundraising strategies.
Final November, the Community raised $ 30,000 by means of donations by partnering with Arcadia College to host its annual Empty Bowl Dinner as a digital occasion.
Later throughout the vacation season, the Community’s annual Holy Household Stroll passed off safely exterior with members of six Chestnut Hill congregations coming collectively to rejoice Las Posadas, a pre-Christmas Mexican celebration that reconstruct the journey of Mary and Joseph earlier than the delivery of Jesus.
Based on Falkove, the cash raised by means of this occasion was capable of stop 15 households from changing into homeless and far of its monetary success has come from native assist.
“This group has supported us lots throughout COVID, not simply when it comes to our group, however they’ve actually supported our households and it is wonderful,” she mentioned.
Falkove has overseen the event of what she calls the community’s “holistic continuum mannequin” as PIHN has moved from a one-program shelter to its present function as a group useful resource middle.
“We do not see households as social work ‘circumstances’, which signifies that a case might be opened and closed. Once we see a household vulnerable to changing into homeless, various factors contribute and it turns into a studying relationship.
Because the group discovered about households and what places a household vulnerable to poverty or homelessness, it started to develop companies that handle these particular points, he mentioned. she declared.
“For some folks which means getting free diapers and donated provides. For others, it could imply serving to them care for his or her youngster who could also be having hassle at college, or serving to when a baby has simply been recognized with autism and the household wants it. some advices.
The group continues its common distribution of meals and diapers each Saturday by donating bins to these in want at a protected distance within the institution’s parking zone.
“We have now a variety of hungry folks in Philadelphia, but when your children are hungry, you are going to feed them. The meals stamps are reduce and swiftly it may be two months earlier than you straighten them out in your advantages to be activated once more, ”she mentioned.
“We’re right here in a means that helps households in order that regardless of how deep on this fragile home of playing cards they’re, we will defend them and defend them.