As early as next school year, Penn students and homeless activists may room together in West Philadelphia.
Penn Haven, a campus homeless advocacy group, hopes to open a house in which Penn students and 18- to 22-year-old “formerly homeless youth or youth that had been through the child welfare system” will live under the same roof, College senior and Penn Haven member Maggie Tishman said.
The aim is not only to provide shelter, but to create a “haven” where community members could easily go to “partake in sharing food and the arts,” College junior and Haven member Sarah Matsui said.
Penn Haven was first established last February with the intention of starting up an entirely student-run shelter inspired by the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, which Harvard University students have run since 1983.
The group then decided to pursue a different direction. Instead of having students run a shelter for the homeless, the proposed house would put residents “on equal footing with students,” creating a more “egalitarian approach” to activism, said College senior and Haven member Jimmy Tobias, a former Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer.
The need for a new model emerged when Haven members realized they wanted to implement a longer-term model that would run during the summer as well, Tishman said.
Earlier this semester, the group learned from Kensington Welfare Rights Union representatives that a similar program, the Jubilee House, once existed in West Philadelphia.
Tishman called the previous example “really inspiring.”
“We thought we were being over-idealistic,” chasing a “pie-in-the-sky” idea, she added.
The group is currently hammering out the details of the project while assessing student interest.
Location is an important consideration in finding a house, Matsui said, explaining that the group is debating the trade-off between proximity to campus and price.
Students would most likely pay the cost of rent and utilities divided by the number of residents, while grant money from the Clinton Foundation would subsidize housing for non-students, Matsui said.
For Haven members, the experience has provided an opportunity to learn from experts and community members about the foster care system and homelessness, Matsui said. She added that members have met with Penn professors and are working with community organizations such as the Philadelphia Youth Advisory Board.Comments powered by Disqus
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