A ‘hope’ closed off

Some of the city’s homeless received an unwelcome surprise in recent weeks to find that a social service center located in the Suburban Station concourse isn’t coming back.

“How would you feel if you got up at five, came down to the Hub and see this?” asked Carmena Green, a homeless outreach worker with Project HOME, outside the vacant storefront formerly occupied by “Hub of Hope.”

The Hub offered the homeless access to housing placement assistance, physicians, psychiatrists, and case managers, all inside a former beauty parlor just below 15th and JFK Boulevard. There were also new socks and cups of coffee.

“Folks on the street keep asking me, ‘What time you opening up?’ I just say, we’re working on it,” Green said.

The Hub operated from January to March for the past three winters, in response to a report by the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania investigating new ways to provide services to the homeless who come to the concourse for warmth.

“The whole purpose is to be where people congregate … People gather in the concourse just to get out of the elements,” said the Hub’s program director Karen Orrick. “It’s about knowing there’s a place where you can go when you’re ready to make a change that’s near where you sleep.”

In the winter of 2014, there were more than 1,000 individuals who came to the Hub for services, according to Project HOME.

About two months ago, Orrick was informed the Hub could not use the same location this year. She is currently seeking an alternative location.

“I used to refer people there. They would hook people up,” said Bill, who has been homeless for 25 years. He recalled the Hub as a source of socks and hot chocolate.

“I feel that it’s needed. They should bring it back,” said Dewey Flynn, 59, who is homeless. “They had placement, information, coffee. Every time I’d go by there they have a line out the door.”

Representatives of the property management firm representing 2 Penn Center, which includes the Suburban Station concourse, did not respond to requests for comment on why the Hub was shut down.

Orrick said Project HOME was very grateful to have the space donated. But some of the homeless in the concourse and their supporters believe they were no longer wanted.

“They need a place to go where they’re not in danger for their lives,” said commuter Jessica Yanoff, who supports having the Hub. “This is convenient down here. It’s safe. I see too many of them getting kicked out at 6 in the morning, when it’s freezing cold.”