“Why don’t you just get a job?”
That’s the question that trailed through my mind as I walked by homeless men when I was in college. One day in Chicago, I didn’t walk by. I stopped and asked. Instead of dropping a dollar in a hat, I traded a man lunch for some answers, and I was fascinated. I asked the same question in Portland, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Baltimore. I was stunned to hear a very similar answer. Men across the country couldn’t get jobs because they couldn’t get ID’s.
When I moved to Philly in 2001, I kept asking questions, and tried to find a way to help. Philly Restart is a program that helps men and women get back on their feet by providing a simple but critical stepping stone. We help the homeless get ID’s so that they can get jobs, cash checks, get into rehab, obtain housing, and take important early steps towards a better life.
The Philly Restart check book is on #62,575. The numbers can blur together, but it is critically important to remember the power of every one. Calvin has been off the streets for 10 years. George has been sober 8 years and is now a Deacon at a local church. Betty has a job, an apartment, and her family together. DeAndre is in college.
Regularly in the City, a waitress or familiar stranger will stop by to thank us for helping them get back on their feet; remembering to treat others as we would want to be treated helps us to remove judgment, and to share what we have with open and responsible hands.
In 2002, I met Fila sleeping along Vine Street near the Free Library. He was 1 of 3 men lined like sardines on the sidewalk. My immediate thought after speaking with him was that he was meant for more in life. After about a year when our meal started to be served weekly, Fila was a regular guest and then volunteer. Security. Soon we challenged and supported Fila to take a step towards a new life. An apartment. He had a small income from delivering circulars, and he was responsible enough to wake up at 4am (he would drink a lot of water before sleeping, and his bladder was his alarm). He simply needed a strong boost.
Fila is a rent paying, tax paying, church attending Philadelphian. He is on the Parkway with us 52 weeks of the year. Now, he is on the other side of the line – a volunteer.
We are grateful for the wonderful team of supporters that have built us up over the years. We hope to keep our donors and prayers engaged by sharing some of the stories and challenges on Facebook @ “Philly Restart” and on our website www.phillyrestart.com .
We serve our meal on Mondays at 4pm at 19th and the Ben Franklin Parkway. We are open for visiting volunteers, deeply appreciative of our donors, and dependent on the community of prayers.
Our very specific prayer request for 2017 is that we would be able to get a state waiver for ID’s in Pennsylvania. Free ID’s for the homeless. We are hoping to identify advocates and legislative connections in all 67 counties in PA. If you are aware of anyone outside of Philadelphia, please email Adam @ “