Northeast Times

NE Hospitality Network aids families in need

Fam­il­ies make up what Rachel Falkove and Bob Byrne call the in­vis­ible home­less, but they said those fam­il­ies are very vis­ible to a co­ali­tion of churches that have joined to provide them shel­ter.

“They’re no dif­fer­ent than any oth­er fam­ily … liv­ing from paycheck to paycheck,” said Falkove. “They might be our next-door neigh­bors … They’re just people, people who are not really mak­ing a liv­ing wage or a wage that keeps pace with the cost of rents or mort­gages.”

And that’s where the North­east Phil­adelphia In­ter­faith Hos­pit­al­ity Net­work comes in.

“We re­spond to fam­il­ies in need,” said Falkove, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Phil­adelphia In­ter­faith Hos­pit­al­ity Net­work.

Fam­il­ies are put up for a month in one of sev­er­al par­ti­cip­at­ing churches, all but one in North­east Philly, said Byrne, co­ordin­at­or of the North­east net­work. Then, if those fam­il­ies still have not found a place to stay, he said, they move to the next church that can ac­com­mod­ate them. This con­tin­ues as vo­lun­teers try to help the fam­il­ies find tem­por­ary or per­man­ent hous­ing, Falkove said.

The churches that provide shel­ter to home­less fam­il­ies are All Saints Epis­copal Church, 9601 Frank­ford Ave.; Faith Luther­an, 4150 Wood­haven Road; Fox Chase United Meth­od­ist Church, 201 Lo­ney St.; Frank­ford Me­mori­al United Meth­od­ist Church, 1300 Dyre St.; Ox­ford Circle Men­non­ite Church, 900 E. How­ell St; Oak Lane Pres­by­teri­an Church, 6637 11th St.; Rhawn­hurst Pres­by­teri­an Church, 7701 Lor­etto Ave.; and St. Dav­id’s Evan­gel­ic­al Luther­an Church, 9169 Academy Road.

The net­work has been in ex­ist­ence for 22 years in the city’s North­w­est sec­tions, Byrne said, but the North­east Phil­adelphia off­shot began in Au­gust 2012.

Plan­ning for a North­east net­work began about three years ago, Falkove said. People from the North­east were call­ing for help, but they wanted to stay in the North­east, she said.

She cited a 2011 Phil­adelphia In­quirer art­icle that said there was a 110-per­cent in­crease in poverty in Lower North­east ZIP codes, and that 99 North­east fam­il­ies were on a wait­ing list to get in­to city shel­ters.

START­ING UP

The first church to get in­volved was Faith Luther­an on Wood­haven Road, Falkove said.

“This is a very en­thu­si­ast­ic con­greg­a­tion,” she said, but it wasn’t easy to get oth­er churches in­volved. The ques­tion was, she said, “You’re in the Far North­east. Why do you want to do that?”

Be­cause it works well, said Faith Luther­an’s pas­tor, the Rev. Owen Grif­fiths.

“In Au­gust of 2012, Faith Luther­an housed the first fam­ily in the North­east sys­tem in our church base­ment,” the pas­tor said in an email to the North­east Times. “It was a great ex­per­i­ence (the fam­ily is now in per­man­ent hous­ing). In March, three fam­il­ies will be stay­ing at All Saints Epis­copal Church on Frank­ford Av­en­ue.”

The idea is to help fam­il­ies who are strug­gling with their mort­gages or be­hind on rent and have no place to go, said Grif­fiths. “Rather than see the fam­il­ies split up in­to the shel­ter sys­tem, IHN houses them in neigh­bor­hood churches and syn­agogues. Con­greg­a­tion­al mem­bers and oth­er vo­lun­teers see that the guests are fed and cared for. Kids go to school dur­ing the day and mom and dad look for a place to stay, take classes in money man­age­ment, or look for work through the re­sources at IHN’s day cen­ter.”

So far, the North­east net­work has helped 10 fam­il­ies, Byrne said.

There are ser­vices for Phil­adelphia’s home­less, Falkove said, and they in­clude help from the city, Cath­ol­ic So­cial Ser­vices and oth­er agen­cies. But, she ad­ded, there are no shel­ters in the North­east.

“I wish there were more re­sources avail­able to fam­il­ies,” she said.

“We typ­ic­ally have three fam­il­ies at a time be­ing hos­ted,” Byrne said. Those fam­il­ies are guided to oth­er re­sources. The wait for city hous­ing is about sev­en to eight months, he said.

“This gives us time to work with our fam­il­ies … provid­ing budget­ing help, restor­ing their cred­it, provid­ing fam­ily coun­sel­ing to keep fam­il­ies from go­ing through the same [prob­lems] in the fu­ture.”

Fam­il­ies are the fast­est-grow­ing seg­ment of the coun­try’s home­less pop­u­la­tion, mak­ing up 40 per­cent. Every year, Falkove said, one out of 50 Amer­ic­an chil­dren ex­per­i­ences home­less­ness.

HELP BE­GINS

When fam­il­ies first make con­tact with the net­work, Falkove said, they par­ti­cip­ate in a 10- to 20-minute phone in­ter­view. “We ask ques­tions to get at the roots of their prob­lems,” she said. “We want to know if they’re in danger. Do they need place­ment im­me­di­ately?”

There is a thor­ough screen­ing, Byrne said. The pro­gram isn’t for every­one, he said. Fam­il­ies are in­vited to talk to net­work vo­lun­teers so the pro­gram is ex­plained to them.

“They have to be able to move once a month,” Byrne said. They move to an­oth­er con­greg­a­tion and then move again.

The net­work tries to keep chil­dren in the schools they had been at­tend­ing and provides trans­port­a­tion to pub­lic trans­it, Falkove said.

“A fam­ily needs to be able to take ad­vant­age of re­sources our vo­lun­teers bring … they need to be open,” Byrne said. “They might need ma­ter­i­al things … We can help with ma­ter­i­al things … We get lots of dona­tions.”

Vo­lun­teers and dona­tions don’t come from only the host con­greg­a­tions. Sev­er­al oth­er churches provide sup­port and vo­lun­teers: Beth­el — the Church at Frank­lin Mills, By­berry Friends Meet­ing, Cres­centville United Meth­od­ist Church, Im­manuel Luther­an Church, Prince of Peace Luther­an Church, St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, St. Mar­tin of Tours Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church, Tabor Luther­an Church, United Meth­od­ist Church of the Good Shep­herd and the United Meth­od­ist Church of the Re­deem­er.

The net­work tries to find hous­ing that a fam­ily mak­ing a $20,000 in­come can af­ford, Byrne and Falkove said. “We need to find land­lords who are will­ing to work with us. … The fam­il­ies pay their share, we put in a sub­sidy and the land­lords cut the rent,” she said.

Right now, she said, there are no such land­lords in the North­east. ••

Fill the plate

Guests at the North­east Phil­adelphia In­ter­faith Hos­pit­al­ity Net­work’s “Empty Plate Din­ner” on April 5 will take home hand­craf­ted plates de­signed by loc­al artists and stu­dents, but they’ll be able to fill some plates at the all-you-can-eat fun­draiser at St. Domin­ic par­ish’s Mari­an Hall.

Date: 5 to 9 p.m., Sat­urday, April 5

Ad­dress: 8532 Frank­ford Ave.

Ad­mis­sion: $20, in­cludes beer, wine and soda. To pur­chase tick­ets, vis­it www.philashel­ter.org

Free­bie: Each han­di­craf­ted empty plate is a re­mind­er that every night in Phil­adelphia 1,000 chil­dren go without a meal or a place to call “home.”

Con­tact the North­east Phil­adelphia In­ter­faith Hos­pit­al­ity Net­work at 215-247-4663, ext. 137.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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