By Lauren Lipton

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some homeless people in Philadelphia are getting homes, and much of the money is coming from an heir who used to be homeless himself.

“Our newest project is the James Widener Ray Homes, up at 21st and Venango Streets,” says Project HOME‘s vice-president, Amy Burns.

She says the money came from a number of sources, but “our lead gift was from the Raynier Institute and Foundation, and the building is named after its founder, James Widener Ray.”

jim ray photo bw small Positively Philadelphia: Legacy of a Homeless Millionaire

(Jim Ray. Photo provided)

And Burns says that Ray was, at one point, homeless himself.

“He had a very serious mental illness, which actually led him to the streets of San Francisco.  He was in and out of halfway houses.  He would tell people, ‘You know, I’m a millionaire,’ and people thought he was delusional.  He was living on the streets.  People didn’t believe him.”

Finally, a psychiatrist believed him, found his family, and helped him out.

“He was able to manage his bipolar disorder.  He would help many people, vulnerable people on the streets, because he knew what it was like.”

And when he died, he set up the foundation to help people like himself.

“We work a lot with the mentally ill and the formerly addicted,” Burns says.  “These people, they’ve been living on the streets, some with kids.  This one woman, when she found out she was going to move in and have her own space, she said, ‘I hugged everyone in sight.’ ”

burns amy project home lipton Positively Philadelphia: Legacy of a Homeless Millionaire

(Amy Burns of Project HOME. Credit: Lauren Lipton)

Listen to Lauren Lipton’s full interview with Amy Burns of Project HOME in this CBS Philly podcast…

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