St. Francis Urban Center Update

HNP Communications Around the Province

PHILADELPHIA — The Urban Center of St. Francis Inn ministries here is expanding. Originally offering services to empower people to solve housing issues, the center is branching into teaching computer, job-search and parenting skills. 

While the center, established in 2006, has worked primarily with people needing housing assistance, it is expanding to better meet all client needs. 

“We work with people in more depth and on an ongoing basis,” said John Gill, OFM, director of the center. 

Among the expanded programs are:
• A mothers group that will launch in a few months for mothers in the center’s housing program
• A justice education program that will begin in January. “It will provide resources for the volunteers who spend a weekend or a week with us,” said John. 
• A new and improved computer lab with all computers online and linked to a printer. It enables people using the center to surf the Internet for jobs, and work with a volunteer who is teaching computer skills. The lab opened roughly two months ago, according to John. 

“Our hope is that we can help people gain the skills and resources, such as resume-writing and basic Web site navigation, to make them more marketable in the workforce,” it was reported in the inn’s Pilgrim newsletter for November/December.

An electronic newsletter is being created for the center, according to staff member Katelyn Bagtaz, a former Franciscan Volunteer Ministry member, who is investigating the best e-letter format. 

The Pilgrim newsletter also notes that none of this would be possible without the generosity of donors and volunteers. 

The Urban Center is one of three ministries affiliated with St. Francis Inn, which earlier this month marked its 30th anniversary. The others are the St. Benedict’s Thrift Shop and Thea Bowman’s Women’s Center. All are in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

The center will be featured in the winter 2009 issue of The Anthonian, the magazine of St. Anthony’s Guild.

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, contributes frequently to HNP Today. Jocelyn Thomas contributed to this story.