Tina Pagotto, CEO of Bethesda Project, discussed the continuum of services offered by the non-profit, helping the homeless of Philadelphia’s Center City district. Ms Pagotto discussed its history, a group of volunteers in Paoli looking to find support for the then ‘bag ladies,’ from caring about their basic immediate needs they began looking at the long term solutions to bring the homeless into self-sufficiency. Today they have 14 residential sites throughout Center City, with common areas and kitchens and volunteers on site. She discussed their philosophy of ‘housing first.’ Many organizations work on a temporary sheltering basis, a client must prove he or she is ‘housing ready’ with issues resolved before receiving housing; Bethesda believes that by removing the stress and chaos of the street, you can get a better, long term result. Not a temporary homeless shelter, they work with single, adult men to first house, then help them develop a plan to remain sheltered, through drug and alcohol treatment, medical and psychiatric care, education or job training. Self-determination is key. She noted that one size doesn’t fit all, some need mental health services, many need government IDs, all are evaluated individually. Bethesda works with other agencies, avoiding a duplication of services, connecting their clients with the programs and resources they need. We discussed Philadelphia’s high poverty rate and low supply of affordable housing, its high rates of alcohol abuse and addiction and Ms Pagotto reminds us, it’s the measure of a thriving city, how we care for those on the margins. Bethesda is looking for businesses and individuals as donors and volunteers, in-kind and cash contributions for their residents and residences, and individuals to volunteer work in their offices and homes.
For more information visit BETHSEDAPROJECT.ORG