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Bon Jovi joins fight against homelessness

Thu, Jan 3, 2013

Bon Jovi added some star power to the fight against homelessness during the groundbreaking ceremony for JBJ Soul Homes, a joint effort between Philadelphia homelessness providers Project H.O.M.E and People for People, Inc. “Each of us has the power to effect change. You needn’t be a rock star.”

Jon Bon Jovi is best known as the rocker who is one of the world’s best-selling and most popular artists, having sold more than 140 million albums. Among homelessness providers in Philadelphia and across the country he’s also known as a selfless and dedicated advocate with a long history of donating time, money and energy to fighting homelessness.

He dreams very big. But he talks small. As Bon Jovi participated in the groundbreaking ceremonies for JBJ Soul Homes, a joint effort between Philadelphia homelessness providers Project H.O.M.E and People for People, Inc. that will bring apartments for formerly homeless and low-income adults and children to North Philadelphia, he talked about the day-to-day difference every person can make in the fight to end homelessness. It was a call to action that asked people to embrace a simple formula.

“We don’t need a scientist to create the cure,” Bon Jovi said. “It’s going to take a lot of determination and sweat and there are a lot of determined people here who believe that we can, in fact, eradicate homelessness.

“It doesn’t take money. It takes acts of kindness. It takes determination. It takes will. It takes being your own microphone and being your own TV camera.

“It starts small, and it starts right here and right now.”

In 2006 he founded the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, with the motto “Rebuilding pride in one’s self and one’s community – one soul at a time.” The foundation helps fund and create community efforts to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
JBJ Soul Homes is just the latest project Bon Jovi has helped bring to fruition. The building, slated to open in November 2013, receives both private and public funding. The lead private funding comes from the JBJ Soul Foundation and the Middleton Partnership. The lead public funding comes from US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Philadelphia. People for People, Inc. will manage the retail space and Project H.O.M.E. will manage the residences.

The $16 million project will create 55 units of rental housing, 40 of them for previously homeless individuals, on a triangular site where Fairmount and Ridge Avenues intersect with Broad Street in the Francisville neighborhood. Francisville is North Philadelphia’s oldest neighborhood and known for diagonal streets that create such parcels. The ground floor will include 12,000 feet of retail, run by a non-profit. The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, with its lead gift for the development of this project, provides leadership in affordable housing in Philadelphia and in its Soul Home in Newark, NJ.

“The struggle of homelessness is unimaginable to me,” Bon Jovi said. “But like we have seen after the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, we know that if we forget all of our differences, we can come together as one. People across the nation – and certainly here in Philadelphia – have proven time and again that by working together we can make a brighter future for people, communities, our city and beyond.”

Bon Jovi said he hopes JBJ Soul Homes will be one step toward ending homelessness.

“I hope that what will happen here is that somebody in those homes will go out and just pay it forward,” Bon Jovi said. “We live in a time when we can’t rely on just the government or the private sector alone. These collaborations, at a time when our nation is so polarized, are so important to the future of the country.”

While Bon Jovi certainly lent star power to the groundbreaking, hundreds of area residents, major funders John and Leigh Middleton (John is a limited partner in the Phillies) and Project H.O.M.E. co-founder Sister Mary Scullion noted the extraordinary partnerships it takes to complete this kind of project.

“Today we celebrate more than just this project, but that vision we all share,” Sister Mary Scullion said. “A vision of a just and compassionate society; a vision where everyone has a place to call home and where everyone has a chance to flourish; a vision that believes in transformation, that even from the darkest of experiences great things can come.”

Bon Jovi has been a longtime supporter of Project H.O.M.E., a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that empowers people to break the cycle of homelessness, address the structural causes of poverty, and attain their fullest potential as members of society through a continuum of care comprised of street outreach, a range of supportive housing, and comprehensive services. At the event he thanked co-founders Sister Mary and Joan Dawson McConnon for their work.

“Our day is a little brighter when we’re in the company of Sister Mary and Joan and all the good works they have done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” he said.

“With great leadership comes the opportunity to make the change you want to be,” Bon Jovi said. “This was the place where our forefathers founded this great nation. I don’t think they intended to see people on the street homeless. I think they intended people to come and pursue life, liberty, that pursuit of happiness, the basic needs of a roof over your head, the opportunity to have food in your belly.

“That gives you the opportunity to go out and make the world a better place.”

With this project, and his participation in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, Bon Jovi is continuing a long history of combating issues that force people into economic despair.

Last year Bon Jovi and the Soul Foundation opened the Soul Kitchen in New Jersey, which takes an innovative approach to fighting hunger. With no prices on the menu, the Soul Kitchen encourages diners to pay what they can in the form of a donation, or serves meals to customers who are willing to volunteer at the restaurant. At the opening ceremonies for the Soul Kitchen, Bon Jovi said: “At a time when one in five households are living at or below the poverty level, and at a time when 1 out of 6 Americans are food insecure, this is a restaurant whose time has come.”

Earlier this year Bon Jovi partnered with the Departments of Veteran Affairs (VA), Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and Health & Human Services (HHS) to help launch a mobile app that would allow homeless veterans to better find and access services, including housing and medical resources. A contest, called Project REACH (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) contest, offered case prizes in developing the mobile app. The winner will be announced Dec. 31.
“The concept is we can access vets to instant and real-time help via the internet. What better way to do that than through the minds of the tech community?” Bon Jovi said, in a conference call with reporters.

Bon Jovi has also worked with Covenant House, and in April helped open a facility for homeless youth in Philadelphia. In an interview with Covenant House president Kevin Ryan, Bon Jovi recalled how his interest in helping fight homelessness started:
“I remember that the first Covenant House was located near the old bus station at the foot of the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City,” Bon Jovi said. “I would look out the bus window on my way to work in a recording studio and often think, ‘There, but for the grace of God go I…’”

Bon Jovi said he wrote “Runaway,” his first hit single, about the homeless youths he saw. And his philanthropic efforts have continued to help fight homelessness across the country ever since.

“I have been blessed both in my professional and personal life,” Bon Jovi said. “Having the opportunity to make change is both rewarding and necessary … Each of us has the power to effect change. You needn’t be a rock star. You needn’t be a politician or invent the magic pill. But each of us working together in what I refer to as the ‘power of we’ is capable of great things.”

Additional reporting for this story was provided by Project H.O.M.E. and StreetWise from online sources. This report includes additional information from past interviews with Jon Bon Jovi and from the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.

Written by Kevin Roberts,
One Step Away – USA


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