Homemade Goods to Address Homelessness

Project HOME is a community organization that provides nationally recognized programs and employment opportunities to persons experiencing chronic homelessness. Their variety of social enterprises, including a handmade gifting line and an online bookstore, provide skill-building opportunities and income generation for their residents.

Project HOME had a humble start as a winter shelter at a swimming pool locker room in 1989, run by the organization’s co-founders, Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon. When the city of Philadelphia tried to turn the building into an office park, these women fought to keep the space to provide services to those experiencing homelessness, and won. Today, as a result of their efforts, Project HOME (which stands for Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care and Education) is a leader in providing comprehensive and effective services to persons who experience chronic homelessness. With innovation, leadership and an unyielding commitment to the dignity of each person, they have developed nationally recognized programs, helped to rebuild low-income neighborhoods and engaged in political advocacy to bring about positive public policies for low-income and homeless persons. 

The mission of the Project HOME community is to empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty and to enable each person to attain their fullest potential as individuals and as members of the broader society. They strive to create a safe and respectful environment where everyone is supported in their struggle for self-esteem, recovery and self-sufficiency.

Project HOME achieves its mission through a continuum of services comprised of street outreach, a range of supportive housing options, comprehensive services and social enterprise.

Social enterprises at Project HOME are small businesses designed to employ residents in a supportive, skill-building environment. Each enterprise provides an opportunity for residents to be empowered through earned income, all alongside an encouraging community.

One of their most successful ventures is candle making. While residents have been making candles at Project HOME for years, the process is being refined into a “HOME Warming” gift box business. New, distinctive scents have quirky and creative names like “Scandalwood,” “When Life Gives You Lemons” or “A Candle By Any Other Name,” which are rigorously tested and refined through a process that residents truly enjoy. According to social enterprise director Nic Watson, “Our favorite work days are the ones where we get to spend an hour or two testing new scents!” Each vegan and all-natural soy wax candle is made weekly by residents of Project HOME. 

In addition to skill-building, the venture also provides a stable income and a sense of community to the residents who take part. Kai Oceans, a Project Home resident who runs the hand poured candle making enterprise, notes that “after experiencing homelessness, it’s nice to have a routine of paid work But more importantly doing this work together creates a sense of community. I see residents bonding over this process.”

Now, this growing venture is about take their products to the next level, thanks to local gourmet specialty shop, Di Bruno Brothers. “They’re helping us to redesign our gift boxes, which [contain] the candles and other products we sell, like unique stoneware coasters and mugs which feature resident artwork,” says Watson. He believes a successful future for this social enterprise is selling gift boxes regularly for corporate gifts, real estate closings and more. Watson is now working to see the expansion of products in stores around Philadelphia “because the more candles and products we can make and sell, the more jobs we can create for residents at Project HOME, and the more lives we can change!”

They have also recently opened an online bookstore that employs their residents. The minimal overhead will allow Project HOME to continue to diversify their social enterprise efforts. Project HOME is now celebrating 30 years by continually innovating their programs and social enterprises to meet the changing needs of those experiencing homelessness.

To learn more about Project HOME, check out their member directory profile.

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