MainStreet is on a mission to find the charitable organizations most worthy of your donations. We focus on their effectiveness and the amount of money they budget for actual good deeds, as opposed to that which goes to overhead.
This week we're looking at Project H.O.M.E. The Philadelphia-based organization helps people who are currently or formerly homeless break the cycle of homelessness.
Who they are and what they do: Founded in 1989 to help people who were living on the streets in Philadelphia, Project H.O.M.E. (which stands for Housing, Opportunities for employment, Medical care and Education) has since greatly expanded its services.
“We now provide a comprehensive continuum of care, including outreach to people living on the streets and a range of residential programs for formerly homeless adults and families, as well as neighborhood revitalization programming that helps ‘prevent’ homelessness,” says Amanda S. Aronoff, Esq., Project H.O.M.E.’s director of development and public relations. “After a few years of successfully working with people living on the streets and helping them move into housing, we realized that we needed to address the root causes of homelessness and poverty. Recognizing the connection between vulnerable communities and homelessness and poverty, we started doing neighborhood revitalization in North Philadelphia. These efforts now include a state of the art technology center–the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs–which provides critical technology and literacy education for children, teen and adults, as well as employment services. We also have a homeownership program for first-time homeowners where we take abandoned homes and rehab them and sell them to first-time homebuyers, as well as a community health program and various community organizing efforts.”
One of the group’s toughest obstacles is overcoming the common misconceptions and stereotypes involving the homeless. “The image of homeless people as helpless, hopeless and lazy is, in fact, the opposite of the truth,” says Aronoff. “Indeed, our formerly homeless residents, once given the supports they need, are anxious to become active and involved in every aspect of our work–as employees, supporters and advocates. The folks with whom we work are powerful and effective advocates for policy change. They are also the most effective mentors for folks who are struggling with similar challenges.”
New projects on the horizon: Like many other organizations, Project H.O.M.E. is struggling to provide needed services under increasingly difficult budget conditions. “Obviously in this economy, it is a particularly challenging time to have new projects,” Aronoff says. “Unfortunately, however, the same economic crisis that is shrinking resources is also increasing the need for our services. Thus we continue to pursue new projects, but we do so very conservatively and with assurances regarding financial viability.”
One such project is St. John the Evangelist House, which addresses the lack of affordable supportive housing for single adults in large urban centers, one of the primary causes of homelessness. “St John’s will be one of Project H.O.M.E.’s largest development projects to date,” says Aronoff. “The eight-story residence will have 24 [single room occupancy] units and 55 efficiency apartments, as well as community space, a computer lab and availability of support services.”
How they spend your money: Charity Navigator awards OFA its highest rating of four stars for financial efficiency. More than 81 cents of every dollar donated goes directly toward projects and services.
“We have an incredibly talented CFO, Joan Dawson McConnon,” says Aronoff. “She is also our one of our co-founders, so we have the unique situation of having a leader with both programmatic vision and financial planning skills. We also have a strong executive management team that vets all expenses, new and ongoing. We are also fortunate to have a very active and talented finance committee, made up of board members, to assist with the management of our finances.”
How to donate: If you’d like to make a donation or volunteer, visit Project H.O.M.E. online.