K. Earl left Philadelphia in 2000, running from a past that would eventually catch up with him.
After two stints in prison, K. Earl found himself back in Philadelphia, where he bounced in and out of halfway houses, shelters, bus stations, and the street, all the while hiding his duress from his family.
“None of my family knew I was in a predicament,” he said. “They’d have been stressed and worried. Today they don’t think I’ve been through some of this stuff.”
Thankfully, those days are behind K. Earl as he transitions from the street to a new life. But before that could happen, he needed help. Enter the Hub of Hope, a winter (December to March) walk-in engagement center for persons living on the street. Wrapping up its second consecutive season in the Two Penn Center subway concourse, the Hub is a partnership between Project HOME and many of the same agencies who made the project so successful last year, including: the City of Philadelphia, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Jefferson University Hospital, Einstein Healthcare Network, Public Health Management Corporation, and SEPTA Police. The Hub exists as a place where individuals experiencing homelessness can see a case manager, talk to a peer specialist or recovery specialist, receive medical care, or just grab a cup of coffee and a moment’s peace.
When K. Earl walked into the Hub and explained his situation to case manager Kanika Stewart, he was given a “stabilization bed” at the Arch Street United Methodist Church (ASUMC) where the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia (SREHUP) staffs an all-volunteer, student-run housing unit in partnership with Project HOME. Two-and-a-half weeks later, K. Earl moved into a safe haven, a form of supportive housing that serves individuals experiencing chronic street homelessness.
Today, he is attending his mental health sessions regularly, is working with a lawyer to access benefits, and is getting connected to an Intensive Case Manager, who will walk with him during his next steps in obtaining permanent housing. And while K. Earl feels fortunate to have been so quickly connected to services, he also recognizes that he had to reach out.
“A friend of mine told me about [the Hub],” he said. “I came down here on a Monday. It helped me out with my housing, helped me deal with my stress and my anxiety.
“I feel better,” he adds. “When I came here, y’all moved me real quick—it was God, too — but I took the steps.”
K. Earl is one of over 130 individuals that the Hub of Hope has helped connect to shelter, housing, and treatment programs around Philadelphia over the last three months. The Hub is open Monday through Friday from noon to 8 p.m., and during that time staffers have met with over 550 unique individuals in over 1,500 visits, while also administering to over 150 patients during the course of more than 300 health clinic visits.
The Hub aims to deepen understanding of the needs of people sleeping in the Suburban Station concourse, provide consistent access to co-located physical and behavioral healthcare, and transition people experiencing long-term homelessness into permanent housing. And for the second year, this new approach to the crisis of street homelessness is having positive results.
As for K. Earl, he is already planning the next phase of his life.
“This place helped me out—I’m not even stressed, I’m great,” he said. “When I get housing I’m going to buy a waffle iron, blender, and deep fryer.” (K. Earl is a big fan of French fries and fried chicken.)
“Most of the time I’ll be cooking on Sunday.”
Karen Orrick is the Project Coordinator for the Hub of Hope and Strategic Initiatives.