Pioneering a New Hosting Model

Unitarian Universalist Church of Mt Airy Added a Shower and Plans to Pilot a Less Intensive Congregation Hosting Model


The Unitarian Universalist Church in Mt. Airy has been a trailblazer in housing homeless families. “Our church has been involved with this program for a long time on and off,” explains Darlene Styer, who, with Steve Workman, is a coordinator of the PIHN project. “It is a matter of social importance. ­­­­­­ The program was in existence when I joined in 1994,” he says.

It is a no-brainer. Now more than ever, people are falling on hard times through no fault of their own.  They need help.

As Philadelphia began to close down because of Covid, and the church was no longer having in-person services, the banging and breaking down of walls began. Today, thanks to a grant from two individuals, an ADA-compliant apartment was created. A space that was used for storage and administration has been transformed into an area fit for a family.

“The congregation made a series of decisions about the space and how we wanted to support families,” Steve explains. “It turned out to be an enormous project. We enlarged the space and put in a shower. Previously, families had to go to the PIHN office on Germantown Avenue before they started their day, to shower. We also have upstairs classrooms that we will put beds in and a kitchen, which will alleviate things for a family.” In past iterations families used the kitchen in the Fellowship Hall.

During Covid times, we’ve missed having the PIHN families stay with us. While we can’t provide the usual in-person hosting, we can still open our doors to a more self-sufficient family in need with PIHN staff supervision. We’re honored to be the first congregation to try out this new, less intense hosting model in our congregational building, especially while we’re not using it as much as we normally do.

A goal of the Interfaith Hospitality Network is to end family homelessness in our community. Families selected into our program receive temporary emergency housing and hospitality in one of our participating church, synagogue, or mosque congregations. Guests are sent to safe, child friendly living quarters with private rooms. Because congregations have been unable to host during Covid timse, PIHN has been sending families to far more expensive hotels and AirBnbs.



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