Nun, laywoman awarded for helping homeless in Philadelphia

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) — A Mercy nun and a laywoman who co-founded a program that is widely credited for reducing Philadelphia’s homeless population by half have been named the winners of the 2011 Laetare Medal given by the University of Notre Dame.

The award, announced April 3, will be presented during the university’s 166th commencement ceremony May 22 to Mercy Sister Mary Scullion and Joan McConnon, co-founders of Project HOME.

“In their work for the homeless of Philadelphia, Sister Scullion and Joan McConnon have splendidly answered the Gospel summons to brotherly love,” said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, in announcing the award winners.

“Serving the unsheltered Lord on the streets of their hometown, they have provided an example for others to serve likewise in cities worldwide,” he added.

The two Philadelphia natives founded Project HOME, an acronym for Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care and Education, in 1989, first providing emergency shelter for 50 homeless men and eventually establishing more permanent supportive residences for chronically homeless men and women. The project now includes 480 units of housing and two businesses that provide employment to formerly homeless people. Ninety-five percent of the homeless people participating in its programs have not returned to the streets.

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