Project HOME announces new recovery housing to be located in Kensington

The building, located at 1920 E. Orleans St. in Kensington, used to be the Frances E. Willard Elementary School.

1920 E. Orleans St. in Kensington.

Leaders from the City of Philadelphia and Project HOME were on hand for a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 15, to announce the creation of the Maguire Residence, which will be a facility featuring 42 living units for people focused on living in recovery. Located at 1920 E. Orleans St. in Kensington, the building was the former location of Frances E. Willard Elementary School.

“This is a celebration of hope,” said Sister Mary Scullion, co-founder of Project HOME. “You only have to go a couple blocks down the street to see the devastation in the lives of so many people and in our community.”

Residents will have access to on-site employment services and paid apprenticeships to assist individuals with limited work experience, on-the-job coaching, skill development, and the support needed for ongoing housing stability.

Megan Maguire Nicoletti, president and CEO of the Maguire Foundation, also spoke at the event.

“We truly believe none of us are home until all of us are home,” she said. “This residence is Project HOME’s first recovery housing in Kensington and the culmination of several years of very hard work. …This building that used to be an elementary school will continue to be a place of growth and learning and hope.”

The event featured Katie Dougherty, a local leader and advocate for people suffering from addiction, who talked about her own personal struggles.

According to Dougherty, she went from “a comfortable life in the suburbs to homeless and lost in the streets of Philadelphia” in a matter of a few years after she was prescribed Percocet by a doctor.

“My story began 13 years ago when a doctor prescribed me Percocet for severe back pain,” she said. “I gradually became addicted to the medication.”

With the help of Project HOME, she said, she was able to get back on her feet.

“The staff really cared about me,” Dougherty explained. “They listened to me and helped me take the steps to achieve the stability that I so desperately needed.”

City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez said that she was impressed by Scullion’s “willingness to reach out to the folks in Kensington on the ground in the middle of this really devastating situation that we find ourselves.”

Executive Director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Greg Heller also spoke at the event.

“At the Redevelopment Authority we focus on social impact,” he said. “When we sell land we don’t sell it to the highest bigger, we sell it for the project that has the greatest social impact. We work creatively with the financing that is available. …I look forward to coming back for the ribbon cutting and taking a tour and seeing this building come back to life.”

Near the end of press conference, Scullion said that there’s only one thing keeping construction from starting on the building

“We’re all ready to go,” she said, “and we need one piece of paper signed by HUD. Because of the government shutdown, we’re waiting for that one piece of paper to be signed.”

According to a press release, the Maguire Residence was made possible through the support of public and private partners with a substantial gift from the Maguire Foundation.

It was established with additional support from Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton and his wife Leigh, an anonymous donor, Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Maguire, Mr. and Mrs. James J. Maguire, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Maguire, Capital One, City of Philadelphia Division of Housing & Community Development, City of Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Equity Fund, PA Housing Finance Agency, Philadelphia Housing Authority, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and PNC Bank.

The home is the latest project funded by MPOWER, a Project HOME community investment partnership that’s multiplying the impact of Project HOME’s proven approaches to breaking the cycle of homelessness.