New Start II – Giving Back Program
September 23, 2021
RHD’s New Start II resides in a residential community on the corner of Jackson and Wakeling Street, in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. The program is located near a bodega, community center, baseball field, and public housing. Director Tijuana Evans explained New Start’s long history of supporting their Frankford neighborhood: “We decided as a program over eight years ago, that to be part of the community, we had to give back to the community.”
The long-term residential facility provides drug and alcohol treatment and mental health support services to men who are experiencing chronic homelessness. A withdrawal management component was added to the program in 2019.
“RHD New Start II is designed around mental health and addiction recovery, and serves individuals who are chronically homeless,” said Evans. “We are a project under the umbrella of the Philadelphia initiative to get the chronically homeless off the streets and into stable housing. We meet people where they are. Everybody’s treatment is individualized and person-centered.”
Person-centered also describes the program’s approach to neighborhood outreach. “Every year we do a service project for the community, including participating in a spring cleanup with the city of Philadelphia,” said Evans. “We also do things like giving out water ice and pretzels in the summertime and putting out a table with food, drinks, and snacks for the kids. We ask for the community’s involvement to help keep the area clean and safe.”
This summer, New Start II found another way to support the community – with affordable, healthy food, courtesy of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program’s (SNAP) Food Trust Program.
“We partnered with SNAP about two-and-a-half years ago. The program provides education for our clients on healthy food and healthy eating, how to cook nutritional meals, and to shop for fruit and vegetables,” said Evans.
SNAP also collaborated with the local state prison on State Road, to provide fresh food, free of charge, to community programs. On a state supervised farm, the inmates harvested their own fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs. The crops they grew were donated to several programs, including New Start II.
“There was so much fruit and vegetables that we couldn’t consume, and we didn’t want it to go to waste,” said Evans. “With the pandemic, we couldn’t do our service projects so we decided to bag some of the food up and give it back to our community. Not only were we benefitting from the fresh fruit and vegetables, but we were also able to educate the community about healthy eating and provide them with food to match it.”
While many people in the community have profited from the food giveaways, the impact on New Start II’s program participants has been just as powerful.
“With the food giveaway, our participants are learning skills and resources that will help them be successful in maintaining their sobriety and being productive citizens once they leave programming,” said Evans.
She continued, “To see them out there engaging with individuals and seeing the tables turn is remarkable. They are now the ones giving back and encouraging people. One time I actually saw a man cry because he was able to participate in one of the giving back activities and was humbled by the experience.”
Evans concluded, “We will continue to do this type of work because, for some people, it does really change their life when they see where they’ve come from and how they’ve come so far in their sobriety.”
For more information on New Start II: www.rhd.org/newstart2/aboutnewstart2/