Making the Safety Net More Visible in Philadelphia

Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia helped a 92-year-old woman living on Social Security qualify to pay lower water bills and get help with chores.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Jon Hurdle
New York Times (NYT)
August 20, 2013
Link to story

Tags: Seniors

Organizations mentioned/involved: Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


But with an array of public and private agencies providing different services in different locations, many poor people here are not getting the assistance available to them that could help them find work or qualify for benefits.

In response, Philadelphia initiated an effort this summer that offers “one-stop shopping” in local outreach centers to help people get all the assistance they need — with food, housing, job training, financial counseling, child care and other services — in one place.

The effort, called Shared Prosperity, is a response to the recent growth in the number of poor people, many of whom are not benefiting from the city’s current economic recovery, said Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, which runs the program.

“We’ve been bringing our economy back, but we haven’t paid attention to people with the fewest skills,” Ms. Gladstein said.

One-fifth of eligible residents are not receiving food stamps under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and about the same number are not getting cash payments available to the working poor under the earned-income tax credit, city officials say.

After the intervention of Community Legal Services, a nonprofit group that advocates for low-income people, Ms. James eventually qualified for a city program under which she pays only $25 a month toward her water bills, and will shortly be receiving free visits from workers who will help her with chores in her North Philadelphia row home.