For our March event, we wanted to focus our resources and attention on Philadelphia's homeless population. Over 15,000 residents access shelter each year in Philly, and with a waitlist for public housing at over 100,000 applicants, it can sometimes take years to get approved.
This means a shelter and support gap that can't be filled by any single group or site, so dozens exist all over the Philadelphia region. We partnered with three organizations that serve the population in Philly proper, and all three do phenomenal work to help these residents live a more stable and comfortable life. Volunteering in Philadelphia is always rewarding, but the best events help humanize the issues, and we think our volunteers would agree this event did just that.
Bethesda Project - North Broad Street
Founded by a Reverend and his prayer group in 1979, Bethesda Project has grown to offer a "continuum of care" to Philadelphia's homeless. Bethesda strives to meet men and women where they are and provide a personalized program to help them achieve their personal potential. Like many other groups who volunteer in Philadelphia, we always seek organizations with strong values and Bethesda certainly has those. They even offer volunteer activities and leadership opportunities specifically for young professionals through their Young Professionals Advisory Board.
Our group volunteered at the North Broad location - one of 13 operated by Bethesda - and cleaned the four-story, mixed-gender shelter. VU volunteers spent the morning sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing like crazy! We even had a few chances to slow down and chat with some of the residents to hear more about them and how Bethesda Project is helping them get to where they want to go in life.
Bethesda Project - Our Brother's Place
Another group spent the morning volunteering in Center City at Our Brother's Place, also managed by Bethesda Project. Unlike the North Broad location, Our Brother's Place specifically provides "emergency" shelter. Our Brother's Place is a partnership with the City of Philadelphia and provides emergency shelter for 149 men and supportive services for an additional 50 on a daily basis. Individuals experiencing homelessness receive warm meals and supportive services, taking the first step in accessing housing in the community.
Volunteers were able to help out with laundry before spending some quality time with those in the shelter that morning. That mean lots of board games, dominoes, and shared smiles!
Lutheran Settlement House - Jane Addams Place
Volunteers in West Philly were working at Jane Addams Place operated by Lutheran Settlement House. LSH was founded in 1902 as a community-based organization serving children, adults, and families living in Philadelphia. They serve these populations in many different ways that cover the full spectrum of wellness - from nutrition to support for domestic violence victims. For the homeless population, LSH works through the Jane Addams Place to serve up to 29 women and their children in need of emergency shelter.
Our volunteers were in West Philadelphia to lead a major clean-up effort both inside and outside. We organized donations, cleaned and cleared their courtyard outdoors, and got them ready to accept more donations more efficiently.
If you would like to volunteer at Jane Addams Place or any of Lutheran Settlement House's programs, you can learn more on their website.
Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission
Of course Philadelphia is home to the oldest rescue mission in the country! Founded in 1878, then known as the Sunday Breakfast Association began serving the homeless population in Philadelphia. Over the next 130 years, their mission developed and so did their name - Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. In addition to supporting the practical needs of the population, they also emphasize spiritual care and healing as part of the process.
Volunteers at the Center City location were able to support an early morning clean-up followed by serving lunch to a large group. They also found time to clean some meeting rooms, organize donations, and break down kits that were donated into individual components.
Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission accepts volunteers to serve three meals per day, every day of the year, so please consider signing up for a future shift here.
Whew! I was really running out of steam with all that great volunteer work our team did! But don't you worry, even though we volunteered in Center City and West Philly and Callowhill, we all made it to the #AfterJawn at Destination Dogs!
Not only did we have delicious hot dogs inspired by some truly wonderful (patatas bravas?!) and truly weird (python sausage...?!), not only did we enjoy some very delicious $3 adult beverages, but we also got to play PacMan, Pool, and Big Buck Hunter while we waited! I'm not kidding - it was amazing.