Bon Jovi’s most rewarding title, though, just may be philanthropist.
His primary mission has been the rehabilitation of dilapidated areas of North Philadelphia. Bon Jovi’s already helped revitalize blocks in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and on Friday he reached out to homeless veterans.
Bon Jovi teamed with Project H.O.M.E, an advocacy group that empowers people to break the cycle of homelessness and reach their potential as members of society, to help vets in need or with their addictions.
”It’s a difference maker,” Bon Jovi said Friday.
Bon Jovi and the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation are part of a combination of funders that donated $3.3 million to support the veteran’s program and upgrade the facilities at St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence. The funds for the residence, which held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday and is expected to be completed in the fall, will aid a housing project that provides a structured environment for veterans.
Bon Jovi, whose parents were both marines, has a special attachment to the area. Bon Jovi helped renovate 15 row houses in one of Philadelphia’s most poverty-ridden neighborhoods and donates time and money to the area.
”The idea here was to use North Philly, 23rd street, as a model to bring back a neighborhood,” Bon Jovi said. ”Not every home on the block was renovated by the Soul Foundation, just the ones that needed our help.”
Sister Mary Scullion, who has helped the homeless for 30 years and is co-founder of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia, has worked with Bon Jovi for nearly three years and said the singer is sincere in shining a worldwide spotlight on the plight of the homeless.
”He truly is a phenomenal rock star and it’s hard to comprehend he’s with us here in North Central Philadelphia celebrating these accomplishments,” Scullion said.
Scullion said the Soul Foundation has donated $2 million to the local community and continues to aid Project H.O.M.E (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, Education).
”The Soul Foundation’s romantic vision is that one street at a time, one neighborhood at a time, leads to one city at a time, to a state at a time, to a nation,” Bon Jovi said. ”I’m just building the model.”
Wearing a white button-down shirt, sport coat and jeans, Bon Jovi took a break from his band’s tour to show up in support of the project.
”I wouldn’t be showing up for many people in the world, but with Sister Mary, you’ll stand up here in attention,” Bon Jovi said.
Bon Jovi has been majority owner of the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul since their inception in 2004.
”Under the guise of sports, came philanthropy,” Bon Jovi said.
Former 76ers coach Billy Cunningham sat in the front row and current Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks also stopped by for a tour of the nearby Honickman Learning Center, a residential community center where the program was held.
”It’s all about trying to make a difference,” said Cunningham, who led Philly to the NBA title in 1983. ”It’s about giving them a hope and a chance to believe that people care about them. That there is a chance to have a wonderful life.”
Cheeks said he planned to bring some Sixers to the learning center next season.
Bon Jovi wants to match Cheeks and have his team make the playoffs this season. The Soul are 9-1 and can clinch their third straight playoff appearance next week.
”How can we not win a championship with Sister Mary,” behind us, Bon Jovi said.
To view the news piece featured on ABC 6 ACTION NEWS on Friday, May 9th please CLICK HERE
The following is the feature article which ran in the May 10 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
PROGRAM WILL HELP HOMELESS, ADDICTED VETERANS
By Jennifer Lin
Inquirer Staff Writer
Kevin Caroll, 50, left the Army in 1979 and became a “slave to heroin.”
His addiction, he said, took him to low places. He’s fished for meals from trash cans, slept on the streets, even curled up inside Dumpsters.
But yesterday, Carroll found himself shaking hands with rock star Jon Bon Jovi, one of the private and public donors who raised $3.3 million to help Project H.O.M.E. start a new program to help more homeless veterans like Carroll.
Carroll said he’s been clear for more than a ear, helped by a recovery program in North Philadelphia that Project H.O.M.E. runs for homeless, addicted men.
The program – the St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Resident – will use the money to renovate its aging building, set aside 12 units of housing for homeless veterans, and provide on-site services for them.
After listening to Carroll tell his story to a full audience of donors and supporters at Project H.O.M.E.’s Honickman Learning Center, Bon Jovi said the decision to contribute money to the effort was easy.
“I’m the product of two vets,” Bon Jovi said. “Both my mother and father were Marines.”
Bon Jovi, who is one of the owners of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, said the investment in St. Elizabeth’s is “another amazing step in ending the cycle of homelessness.”
The Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation and Bon Jovi contributed a combined $250,000 to the St. Elizabeth’s project. Most of the remaining money for the project came from a combination of federal, state and city sources, said Sister Mary Scullion, co-founder of Project H.O.M.E., a non-profit agency that provides housing and services for homeless people.
Veterans make up a disproportionate share of the nation’s homeless population, studies have shown.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Peter Dougherty, Director of Homeless Veterans Programs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said about one in five homeless people in the United States are veterans.
Dougherty said the ranks of homeless veterans, however, are easing as federal and local agencies provide more services for them.
Dougherty cited a recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to spend $75 million on permanent housing for homeless veterans. Of that, Philadelphia has a commitment to get funding for 140 units of permanent housing for homeless veterans, he said.
Dougherty said there were about 154,000 homeless veterans across the country – down from about 250,000 eight years ago.
In Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, he said, outreach teams estimated that there were about 550 homeless veterans.
He said veterans returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan should fare better than their peers who came back from Vietnam a generation earlier. He said there are more supports for them and a better understanding of their needs.
Dougherty estimated that nationally, about 2,000 veterans on the streets or in shelters have returned from the current conflicts.
Dougherty said returning soldiers are prone to homelessness because they are coming from stressful assignments and can feel alienated. He said the military makes veterans better equipped than others to live in harsh environments like the streets.”
“They fall harder than the rest of us,” he said.