Project HOME, Philadelphia, PA

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Best Practice | August 11, 2006

Project H.O.M.E. is a nonprofit founded by Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon in 1989. The organization provides a full range of services for chronically homeless people with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders, including street outreach, safe havens, permanent supportive housing and a range of services to supplement housing. This continuum is an important part of Project H.O.M.E.'s success: each person is recognized as an individual with unique needs. Services at each facility are different; some residents are not ready to accept regimented drug or alcohol treatment, while others may be able to live almost independently.

The project profiled below, the facility at 1515 Fairmount Avenue, is notable for a number of reasons: the careful evaluation at admission to the facility to ensure compatibility with the program, the partnership forged with the State Office of Mental Health and its emphasis on fostering personal development and dignity.

The Facility

After a long, and now infamous, legal battle, the permanent housing facility at 1515 Fairmount opened its doors in 1996. 1515 Fairmount is a 48 bed permanent housing facility for homeless mentally ill men and women. The services provided at 1515 Fairmount are not intensive, and the residents are self-sufficient enough to clean their rooms and cook for themselves. There is no curfew or program requirements at 1515. The most common diagnoses are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Diagnoses are not what concern staff of this facility, however. More important is the level of independent living skills that potential clients possess, and the appropriateness of an environment that provides stable housing combined with low-level supportive services. Residents live in "clusters," in which 5-7 residents share living, dining and kitchen facilities.

Referrals

Project H.O.M.E. is unique in its method for reaching clients for 1515 Fairmount. All referrals to 1515 Fairmount come through the Office of Mental Health. OMH stays involved with referred clients by continuing to provide one-on-one case management. All clients must have a history of homelessness or have been at risk of imminent homelessness. 1515 Fairmount employs a ?team interview? method to identify appropriate residents. A group of people who have been involved in the prospective resident?s treatment, including the city case manager and other programs officers, work with the Project H.O.M.E. team to determine whether 1515 would be a good fit. The notion of "fit" is integral to the program's success; not everyone will benefit from the model of low services adminstered at 1515.

Services

1515 Fairmount employs two full-time case workers and one part-time case worker from 9-5 Monday-Friday. Also staffed is a 24-hour reception desk. Case management is supplemented greatly by the requirement that each resident have a case manager assigned by the city. 1515 Fairmount does not require a regimen of supportive services, but does ask each resident to be involved in some structured activity - whether it be employment, classes, or other daily activity - for 15 hours per week.

Fifteen of the 48 residents work. Project HOME facilitates employment and community reintegration, by employing residents in two in-house businesses: The Back Home Café, and Our Daily Threads Thrift Store.

Outcomes

According to the project coordinator, Project H.O.M.E.'s most important outcome, and the primary ingredient for its success, is respect for each resident's dignity. While this is a difficult goal to measure, one need only to visit 1515 Fairmount, or any of Project H.O.M.E.'s sites, to know that they have succeeded. Residents feel a tremendous pride in their homes, and often in their recovery and independent living skills. Of all the residents that have lived at 1515 Fairmount since 1996, close to half still live there. Others have moved on to live independently, and others have decompensated and cycled back into the homeless assistance system.

Fewer people have relapsed in the later years of the project. Darryl Parker, the program coordinator, believes that this success is due in large part to better client screening. The unsuccessful residents were largely those who needed more structure than 1515 Fairmount was designed to provide.

Project Financing

Project H.O.M.E. was awarded a $2 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1996 to rehab the property at 1515 Fairmount Avenue. The units have project-based Section 8 vouchers which allow residents to pay 30% of their income toward rent. 1515 Fairmount has an annual budget of $182,000, most of which comes from a grant from the Office of Mental Health for all of the supportive services in the project. Additionally, OMH supplies each resident with his/her own case manager. Project H.O.M.E. manages the project, while their limited partner, 1515 Fairmount Limited Partnership, acts as the investor and developer.

1515 Fairmount did not always receive this large amount from the Office of Mental Health. Indeed, only recently the grant was $70,000. According to Sister Mary Scullion, the city became willing to support more of the project after the need for permanent supportive housing was proven, through data collection and analysis. Project H.O.M.E. keeps its private donations as
flexible as possible, in order to channel the money to where it is most needed. Private donations that had been used for the facility at 1515 Fairmount are now being used in newer facilities, that are not established enough to receive city support.

For More Information Contact:

Jeannine Lopez - Program information
Amanda Aronoff - Budget information
Project H.O.M.E.
1515 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130

(215) 232-7272
www.projecthome.org