PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials, advocates, and members of the Old First Reformed Church held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday for a new supportive housing development opening in Old City.
Old First House, a soon-to-be 34-unit building, sits on prime real estate on 4th and Race streets — a parcel worth $2 million donated by its neighbor Old First Reformed Church.
In 1986, then-mayor Wilson Goode asked Philadelphia churches to open their doors as emergency shelters and Old First was the first to step up, says Reverend Michael Caine.
“We thought it would be just that, an emergency [shelter], and the city somehow would figure out how to make enough space for everyone to have a home.”
Finding space for everyone still has not happened, but the church has worked with multiple partners for more than eight years to realize its vision for the property and it has one more obstacle before construction begins: A building from 1760 must be moved 48 feet to clear the footprint.
The total cost of the project is about $20 million cobbled together from multiple sources, including Philadelphia Housing Authority.
President Kelvin Jeremiah says it shouldn’t be so complicated.
“Residents who are low income are often not welcome in neighborhoods like this one. And that, coupled with the lack of funding, it’s a real challenge. But we shouldn’t be afraid to take on those challenges because the need is real for too many of our families,” he said.
Old First House is expected to open next year.