Local Nonprofits

Overview:

The Kensington and East Kensington neighborhoods are riddled with problems including high levels of unemployment and crime; many nonprofits have surfaced in Kensington to take care of these issues.  Many of the nonprofits in Kensington are faith-based institutions, yet some are religiously unaffiliated.  These nonprofits, unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, have not been able to “solve” all of Kensington’s problems.

Programs for Substance Abuse:

As mentioned in other sections, drug abuse is prevalent in Kensington and East Kensington.   In recent years, many Kensington residents have become increasingly angry at what they view as the deterioration of their neighborhood due to drugs and the government’s inability to adequately handle Kensington’s drug problem (Catrambone and Silcox 56-106).  As a result, Kensington and East Kensington are home to  nonprofits with a focus on preventing and treating drug abuse.  Shalom Inc,  founded in 1973, began as a preventative program in high schools funded by a grant from the City of Philadelphia’s Coordinating Office for Drug and Alcohol Abuse programs.  Since then, Shalom has expanded its scope and has preventative programs within schools, outpatient counseling, and services for people needing to take classes because of drug or alcohol related convictions.  Another nonprofit, the Fresh Start Foundation, offers transitional housing programs for people suffering from addiction; located in the heart of Kensington near Kensington and Frankford Avenues, Fresh Start serves about 500 people annually.

Daycare and After School Services

The Kensington and East Kensington areas have an exceptionally high percentage of households that are single mothers with children (on average 26.81% per Census tract according to the 2010 Census), especially when compared to the Pennsylvania average percentage of just 7.58%.   In 1997, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF ) program was started. This program, which provides monetary assistance to low-income families, is time-sensitive; citizens can typically only receive cash assistance for five years.  Single mothers, therefore, need to find jobs in order to support themselves once their TANF expires (or even while they are still are on TANF).There is a high demand,  for child and youth services.   Many mothers, need children services, especially for out-of-school programs like daycare for children below school-age and after-school programs.

Another motivation for developing out-of-school youth programs in Kensington and East Kensington is to prevent children from joining gangs by providing them with organized programming.  Many children in Kensington live with working mothers and therefore have little to no supervision outside of school.  Nonprofit programming therefore, is meant to provide them with formalized structure  to prevent them from becoming involved with gang activity; in theory, if children are being supervised at all times, then they cannot and will not join gangs.    Many afterschool services are offered by faith-based organizations.  The Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center run by Catholic Social Services offers  an after-school program on Kensington Avenue.  Inner City Mission, a Christian faith-based nonprofit located in East Kensington, also offers an after school tutoring and mentoring program for free to students in the Kensington area.

Many nonprofits also host recreational sports leagues and arts opportunities in an attempt to divert youth and adults from participating in gang or drug activity.  The Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center, for example, hosts sports leagues and arts and culture classes (drama, art, music, etc.) on-site for both youth and adults.

These nonprofits, however, cannot supervise every child in Kensington; not every family will be able to find low-cost or free after-school programming.  Crime, therefore, still abounds in Kensington.

Food resources and pantries:

As is typical in high poverty neighborhoods, the Kensington/East Kensington sections of Philadelphia have many food resources and food pantries.  Most of these food pantries are faith-based. Many faith-based food ministries in Kensington are fairly old.   The Philadelphia Brotherhood Mission was begun in 1908; last year alone, PBM provided over 97,000 meals to citizens in the Kensington area.  The Kensington Neighborhood House, established in 1916, also has an emergency food pantry.  Other faith-based organizations that specifically provide food services include the Cast Your Cares Ministry, Christ Bible Fellowship Church of Philadelphia, and the Kensington Neighborhood House.  Link to Ali’s page on food availability here

Employment Assistance:

Because of the relatively high unemployment rate in Kensington and East Kensington, there is a high demand for job placement and training agencies.  One of the main focuses of many job training agencies is addressing the digitial divide: the fact that many impoverished citizens are unskilled with computers.  Increasing numbers of jobs  require competence in computer skills.  The job search itself even has moved predominantly online, with many large employers only accepting online applications.  Nonprofits have attempted to help citizens bridge the the digital divide by assisting them in navigating the online job application process and by teaching them how to use computers themselves.

Some nonprofits in Kensington try to improve citizens’ employability by providing them with education. As stated in the economy section, one of the key roadblocks to economic success in Kensington is the lack of educational attainment.  Non-profits, therefore, provide free or low-cost education so that residents can be better prepared to enter the workforce.  The Congreso de Latino Unidos, located in East Kensington and founded in 1977, offers GED and ESL classes to residents.  Congreso also has an accredited Associate’s Degree program for citizens interested in a particular vocation.  Congreso’s classes are during the evening to accommodate employed citizens and parents.

One nonprofit in Kensington, the Community Women’s Education Project, reaches out particularly to single mothers; 85% of their clientele are single mothers.  Founded in 1977, the CWEP has helped over 17,300 adults find jobs in Kensington.  The CWEP provides a wide variety of educational programming including GED, ESL, literacy, vocational, mathematics, and computer courses.  The CWEP also has full-time, part-time, and after school programming for children so that mothers can focus on education and employment while knowing that their children are in a safe environment.  What makes the CWEP truly exceptional, however, is its support services.  CWEP provides participants with counseling, referrals, tutoring, computer access, transportation assistance, emergency food, and free breakfast and lunch for participants and their children so that clients can feasibly stay in the program.  CWEP has been successful because it makes sure that participants are able to achieve a higher level of education so that they can enter upwardly mobile jobs.  Upwardly mobile jobs are in turn better employment options for single mothers because they often offer more flexible schedules than low-paying jobs; having a flexible work schedule is extremely beneficial to a working parent.

Another nonprofit that focuses on job training in Kensington for a more general clientele  is the Impact Services Corporation.  Founded in 1974 by a grant by the Ford Foundation, Impact has since 1974 helped over 20,000 people enter the workforce.  Impact Services Corporation’s Community Employment Services is a general employment assistance program which helps all interested citizens find jobs.  Impact also has a transportation assistance program which helps citizens travel to their workplaces.  Impact additionally hosts programs for more specific sects of clients.  Impact offers “welfare-to-work” programs that specifically provide TANF recipients with job training and other activities to prepare them for the workforce.   Impact also offers employment services for ex-offenders and for veterans to help them re-enter the workforce.  Impact’s focus on ex-offenders is extremely pertinent in the high-crime neighborhood of Kensington.

Senior Services:

Lutheran Settlement House, http://www.flickr.com/photos/8430189@N06/

The majority of nonprofits that provide services to seniors are located in the Fishtown neighborhood.  Penn Home, founded in 1848, is a low-cost personal care retirement residence located in Fishtown on Susquehenna Avenue.  The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging also runs a subsidized senior housing centers, Neumann North Senior Housing, in Fishtown.

Other non-residential programs organize daytime programming for senior citizens.  The Lutheran Settlement House also provides low-cost daytime senior programming like organized meals, classes, and activities. The Catholic Social Service’s St. Anne’s Senior Center also offers daytime meals, classes, volunteer opportunities, and activites.  This program, as are the other senior centers, is clearly directed toward the population of Fishtown rather than the populations of Kensington and East Kensington.  St. Anne’s Senior Center has staff bilingual in Polish and Russian but no other languages, which shows its attention to Fishtown’s predominantly white population rather than Kensington and East Kensington’s racially heterogenous populations. The neighborhoods of Kensington and East Kensington have substantial Puerto Rican populations, so the center’s lack of Spanish bilingual staff shows that St. Anne’s target clientele is not from the Kensington or East Kensington neighborhoods.

Although Kensington and East Kensington certainly do not have a dearth of senior citizens (In 2010 10.8% of the average population taken from these Census tracts were 65 years and  older vs. a 12% national average), there are no nonprofits located specifically within Kensington and East Kensington with a specific focus on senior services.  Senior services is the only area that Kensington and East Kensington’s otherwise rich nonprofit sector does not touch.

Conclusion:

Although there is a thriving nonprofit sector in the Kensington and East Kensington neighborhoods that attempt to alleviate many of the problems that these neighborhoods face, these organizations alone have not been able to alleviate Kensington’s issues.   Kensington remains a neighborhood divided: a neighborhood filled with prosperity and decay, opportunity and poverty, all at once.  

Works Cited
“Cardinal Belivacqua Community Center.” Community-Based Services Division of Catholic Social Services. Archdiocese of Philadelphia, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Catrambone, Jamie, and Harry C Sicox, eds. Kensington History: Stories and Memories. Philadelphia: Brighton Press , 1996. Print.
Community Women’s Education Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.
Congreso: Strengthening Latino Communities. Congreso de Latino Unidos, 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

“CSS St. Anne’s Senior Citizen Center.” Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. N.p., 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Fresh Start. The Fresh Start Foundation, 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Impact Services Corporation. N.p., 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Inner City Missions. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Lutheran Settlement House. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

“Neumann North Senior Housing-Affordable Housing.” Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. N.p., 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

New Kensington Community Development Corporation. Business Directory and Neighborhood Resource Guide 2011. Philadelphia: Northern Liberty , 2011. Print.

Penn Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Philadelphia Brotherhood Rescue Mission. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

“Shalom Inc.” Shalom Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

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