North Philadelphia 'Cornerstone' becomes safe space for homeless youth

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I was one of those young people that mom was trying to find stuff for her son to do because he was going on the wrong track," said Quinzelle Bethea El. "Then as I grew up, it was important to create a space where they know that they can be involved."

Bethea El has spent much of his adult life bringing resources to others in need. This led him to meet Marion Campbell, the Executive Director of the non-profit, Eddie's House.

"My purpose in life is to empower the lives of others. That's always been my mission," said Campbell, who is driven by faith to help adults and children in need.

Each has witnessed children transitioning out of foster homes who lack a sense of what the word, "home," truly means. That's why they teamed up to create a new solution.

"The Cornerstone" opened its doors with a grand opening this afternoon, led by young adult volunteers who serve as peer mentors for all who enter. Formerly the location of a Jewish synagogue at Dropsie College, it is now a drop-in center for area youth.

"There's nothing really been sustainable on this campus for years, so we would like to be that cornerstone for the young people," said Bethea El.

People aged 16 to 26 can enter the facility and use its supportive services, do their laundry, take a shower, and eat a meal. There will also be artistic spaces to play music or log on to a computer. The current amount of volunteers has made it possible to open just a few days per week, but the eventual goal is to welcome guests all week long.

The campus is also outfitted with community housing and more apartments are on the way. Even before The Cornerstone debuted, Bethea El had provided a home for those in need under the moniker, "Forget Me Knot Community Services."

"I was in the program," said 21-year-old Jannie Palmer. "I used to live in the building but now, they got me a house, so I have a house up in Southwest now."

Palmer shows her gratitude by returning as a volunteer. She and others live out The Cornerstone's goal to be youth-led and adult-supported.

"I actually felt like I lived a whole lifetime helping the youth and I'm still their age as well," said 20-year-old Casanova Collins, who has also been volunteering with Bethea El for quite some time.

The Cornerstone is relying on grants and donations in order to sustain and grow its services. To learn more, visit the Growing Resilient Communities website or call 267-875-4118 or 215-921-8375.

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