Centers to help poor Philadelphians get benefits

PHOTOS: RON TARVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eva Gladstein (top) cuts the ribbon at the new BenePhilly Center on Locust Street near 12th, one of six in the city. Michael Dorsey (above) picks up information on government assistance from the center.
PHOTOS: RON TARVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eva Gladstein (top) cuts the ribbon at the new BenePhilly Center on Locust Street near 12th, one of six in the city. Michael Dorsey (above) picks up information on government assistance from the center.
Posted: July 10, 2014

THE CITY yesterday opened six BenePhilly Centers to assist low-income Philadelphians who are eligible for benefits but are not receiving them.

Increasing benefits access is a major goal of Shared Prosperity, an anti-poverty plan that Mayor Nutter unveiled last year. He tasked Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, with creating and implementing the plan.

The centers, Gladstein said, will help people "get benefits that can help alleviate some of the worst effects of poverty."

Funded by the federal Community Services Block Grant, the centers and related outreach efforts will together cost $1.3 million per year, according to Gladstein. Each will have two benefits counselors who will assist residents in signing up for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps with heating bills.

"This is money that is sitting on the table that we collectively do not have access to or are not seeing the benefit from," Gladstein said at a ribbon-cutting event.

At 26.2 percent, Philadelphia's poverty rate is the highest among the top 10 U.S. cities, according to the Census Bureau. Many poor people who are eligible for benefits don't sign up, Gladstein said, because they have language barriers, are unaware they are eligible or have difficulty with complicated application processes.

Residents can call 844-848-4376 to set up an appointment or talk with a benefits counselor over the phone.

Gladstein said the city will open eight more referral centers that will offer a lower level of service. The first six are housed in existing community organizations:

*  Catholic Social Services' Casa del Carmen, 4400 N. Reese St.

* People's Emergency Center, 3939 Warren St. (in the Families First building).

* Philadelphia FIGHT, 1233 Locust St.

*  Project HOME, 1515 Fairmount Ave.

* Utility Emergency Services Fund, 1617 JFK Blvd., Suite 840.

* United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, 2029 S. 8th St. (in the Houston Center).

Nutter was scheduled to attend the ribbon-cutting but instead went to Harrisburg, where he lobbied the state Senate to approve a cigarette tax that could fund city schools.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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