New Upper Darby shelter hopes to break down barriers for the homeless

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Thursday, January 26, 2023 10:02AM
New Upper Darby shelter hopes to break down barriers for the homeless
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For a decade, the Student Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia operated out of church basements. Now, they have a permanent home.

UPPER DARBY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A Villanova professor and her students are helping the less fortunate in their community by giving them a place to stay.

Stephanie Sena, an anti-poverty fellow at the university, started the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia in 2011. For a decade, they operated the shelters out of church basements. Now, they have a permanent home.

"We have a responsibility to give back to our community and leave the world a better place than we found it," said Sena, the director and founder of Breaking Bread Community Shelter in Upper Darby.

"Homeless shelters in this country are the gateway to housing. It's where you get linked to a case manager. It's where you get on a list for a housing voucher," she said.

The issue is she's learned certain barriers keep people out of shelters and she wants to break them down.

"We accept people we say with their three P's: their pets, their partners, and their property," Sena said.

To achieve that goal, Sena purchased the property on Long Lane in Upper Darby last year. It's still undergoing renovations.

"It's a lot of money. We still have a gap of about $500,000 we need filled to completely finish the renovation," she said.

What's currently an open room of cots will soon be transformed into an office that offers different types of aid, including counselors and medical.

The next two floors will have private rooms to house around 50 people, like Jonathan Eady.

"I was lost, confused, scared. I'd never been in this situation before and then I met Miss Stephanie, which has been such a blessing to my life," he said.

If you ask Sena, the real blessing is meeting someone like Eady and having the chance to break bread with him.

"I'm just trying to make the world a place that I want my children to live in," she said.