HOMETOWN HEROES: Philadelphia outreach worker, nurse practitioner risk health to help homeless

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The used needles tossed onto the street in Philadelphia's Kensington section are like a minefield for Kara Cohen and Sam Santiago getting out of their Project HOME car.

The type of outreach they're doing can't be put on hold during a public health pandemic because they're in the middle of another battle.

"Not much has changed for them. It's still business as usual. They still have to meet all their needs, they still have to get their food, they still have to find a way to survive," said Cohen, a nurse practitioner.

She says she went to nursing school so she could help the homeless.

Santiago retired as a Philadelphia police officer after his wagon flipped during a chase in the '80s. He chose to continue with public service as an outreach worker with Project HOME.

"It's letting people know that we still care for them because nobody's paying attention to them," said Santiago.

RELATED: HOMETOWN HERO: Montgomery County ER nurse serving meals to community in free time
EMBED More News Videos

An emergency room nurse in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is using her free time to serve meals to those in her community.

"Sam isn't good at his job, he's the best at his job. He has the ability to connect with people and build relationships even when they don't want that," said Cohen.

The two work together helping the homeless in Kensington get necessities like food and healthcare. It's a job made even more dangerous because of the deadly virus.
"Right now we're losing lives and this helps with that because you need to stay hydrated and well-fed during the coronavirus," said Collen Gray, a Kensington resident who picked up free food from the Project HOME van.

Across the state, the positivity rate of coronavirus cases is declining, down to about 12%. In 19134, the zip code that includes Kensington, that number more than doubles to 30%. The testing rate is the 4th lowest in the city; only 3% of residents have been tested.

"It's dealing with an opioid and a pandemic on top of it, so it's been really intense," said Cohen.

It's also a risk to their own health, but that risk isn't stopping them from giving people the love they so desperately need.

"Y'all might have saved lives today like this is great. I couldn't think of any better thing," said Gray.

Nominate someone in your life who is going above and beyond during this crisis, including healthcare workers or other essential personnel, volunteers and more.

CLICK HERE to learn more.


Pelosi unveils $3T coronavirus aid package with $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals

'I would not let your child out in public': Mom warns after 9-year-old gets illness likely linked to COVID-19

Action News Troubleshooters: Know your employee rights before heading back to work

Why your grocery bill may be higher than usual

Saturday classes? Schools mull ways to make up students' lost time

Share your coronavirus story with Action News

Nominate a 6abc Hometown Hero

For more updates related to the coronavirus, visit 6abc.com/coronavirus.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.