“The first thing you lose is your dignity. On the streets, in abandoned buildings, you can’t meet your basic needs in privacy or safely.”
The Committee for Dignity and Fairness for the Homeless Housing Development, Inc. (now known as Dignity Housing) was established in 1988 as a direct response to the sentiments of this remark from a homeless man to Dignity’s co-founder, Alicia Christian. During the period of 1984 to 1989, Homeless activists and their allies, including Dignity’s founders, William “Chris” Sprowal, Leona Smith, and Ms. Christian came together to rally local governments for affordable housing and supportive services for the homeless.
Many of Dignity’s founders had experience homelessness themselves and were able to draw from their experience to create a program that didn’t just provide short term housing, but supportive services to help people break the cycle of homelessness.
In 1987, city officials agreed to collaborate with leaders to improve the plight of homeless in Philadelphia. Their efforts resulted in the formation of Dignity Housing – the first housing and social services program in the nation founded and guided by homeless people and activists. Dignity Housing was founded on the premise and continues to operate with the now with 25 years of proof, that given appropriate support services, mentoring, and decent, affordable transitional housing, homeless families and individuals could stabilize their lives, pursue life-enhancing goals in education and employment and budget and save for a move to permanent housing.