08/05/2011 - When Sister Mary Scullion opened an emergency homeless shelter in South Philadelphia more than two decades ago, she quickly noticed that many men returned night after night. A good number had behavioral health problems—veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and people experiencing other forms of mental illness.
It became obvious to her and the volunteers, who in those early days were running the shelter out of a swimming-pool locker room, that homelessness was going to require a long-term solution. And more than 20 years later, that initial effort has become Project H.O.M.E., a nationally recognized comprehensive service provider whose offerings include residential programs that house about 400 individuals a year, neighborhood revitalization and education initiatives for adults and youth.
One of the forces behind Project H.O.M.E.’s transformation, according to Sister Mary, has been the support of the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services in Philadelphia. “We are grateful to the Pew Fund,” she said.“The unrestricted operating support and multi-year funding has enabled us to take risks, many of which worked. It has been important in capacity building and furthering our mission.” The Pew Fund, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, builds on the long-standing commitment of the founders of The Pew Charitable Trusts to aid the least advantaged members of the Philadelphia community.
The program’s support has played an essential role in helping groups to implement innovative and effective ways to address challenging problems, but it is not intended to be the sole source of funding for any of the nonprofit organizations with which it partners. The Pew Fund’s rigorous scrutiny of applications, involving national experts, is meant to ensure that proposed initiatives will have successful and meaningful outcomes. “It’s a process that bolsters our confidence that Pew’s dollars will help change people’s lives,” says Frazierita Klasen, director of the Pew Fund.
Since 1991, the fund has awarded nearly $180 million to more than 300 nonprofit direct-service organizations in Philadelphia and neighboring Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. It currently supports 115 organizations with 124 grants. These include the Children’s Literacy Initiative, which has been able to expand its activities over years through the fund’s support. A 2010 award is allowing the group to train teachers to work with 845 children in 10 Delaware County Head Start Centers.
The Pew Fund’s emphasis on helping organizations do their work more effectively has helped grantees better serve vulnerable communities. For more than a decade, Pew has supported the behavioral health programs of the Family Service Association of Bucks County, which serve approximately 1,400 people a month. A recent grant helped the organization attain state certification for its evidence-based, integrated treatment of people with both mental health and substance abuse disorders—a certification
that qualified the program for more state funding. “The establishment of the Pew Fund was a very important strategic initiative on Pew’s part,” said Sister Mary. “With government cutting back, the Pew Fund has become even more critical to vulnerable adults.”