Rachel Falcove, executive director of Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network
This organization, serving homeless and formally homeless families in Northwest and Northeast Philadelphia, is part of a network entitled “Family Promise”. Rachel Falcove became executive director of the local group 17 years ago.
PHIN is often considered as an organization whose major activity is to provide shelter for homeless families, but it has embarked on new directions because of the lack of affordable rental housing in the Philadelphia area. It can take up to a year to find housing for families in shelters, which is a very expensive and inefficient system.
Rachel pointed out that the problem of affordable housing is not confined to the unemployed or the currently homeless. This is also a major problem for working families, who often have problems paying the rent and maintaining a job.
Many families have problems because of a past eviction notice, whether actually carried out or not, and because of gender specific and density specific housing rules imposed by the federal government.
PHIN has developed a program of the “shallow rent” subsidy, meaning a few hundred dollars a month to help working families find a decent place to live and to stay in the neighborhood where they have contacts. The organization also in some cases leases and apartment, and then subleases to tenants at a reasonable figure. In some cases the agency holds the earned income credit that some families receive, because it annual credit of this size showing up in a bank account would affect support on a long-term basis.
PHIN is also working with other groups to establish a “tiny house community”, an intentional community for single-parent households. The small prefabricated houses are intended to create permanent housing at affordable prices for needy families.
The Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network depends on community support for all its activities. It has more than 1500 volunteers from 56 congregations, 9 universities, and 2 seminaries.