By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia social service agency that serves homeless single mothers and their young children today cut the ribbon on a $2.6-million housing project in West Philadelphia that provides both affordable housing and a permanent place for homeless families.

With its bright orange, manicured courtyard and a sunny playspace for young children, the development, in the 4200 block of Powelton Avenue — called “Bigham Leatherberry Wise,” in honor of three local homeless advocates — will soon become home to eleven families in need.

(Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Photo by Cherri Gregg)


“They’re all rental units, and it’s a combination of new construction and rehabilitated units,” notes Kira Strong, VP of community development for the People’s Emergency Center, which spearheaded the project.  She says the lot where six two-bedroom and five three-bedroom units now sit was once vacant and blighted, so in addition to helping families, the project spruces up this area, one of President Obama’s “Promise Zones,” just as real estate costs rise.

“It also ensures a continued diversity of residents, as well as high quality construction and architecture,” she says.

The $2.69 million for the project came from the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Supporting Housing, as well other public and private sources.

“This project is going to welcome people in need of a home to something new,” said Marie Nahikian, director Office of Supportive Housing.  She says the OSH will continue to support the project with $1.7 million a year in support.

Strong says seven of the units will be for families experiencing homelessness and four will be reserved for low- to moderate-income families.  She says applications open up later this month.

PEC will provide supportive services, such as affordable child care, counseling, and therapy, to the families who live at Bigham Leatherberry Wise.

Khadijah Price, who moved into temporary housing with her six-month-old child last month, is thinking about applying for the new housing.

“It was nice and bright,” she said.  “This could be somewhere I could call home, possibly.”

Over the past 20 years, PEC has created 241 units of affordable housing.  For more information, go to