Joan Dawson McConnon
Associate Executive Director
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Industry: Nonprofit Health and Human Services
Joan Dawson McConnon has a mind for numbers, and she uses that talent for community service and altruism, not just for the balance sheet.
She has degrees in accounting from Penn State University and taxation from Drexel University. While studying at Drexel, Dawson McConnon participated in outreach efforts with Mercy Hospice and the Committee for the Homeless. During that time, she met Sister Mary Scullion, and together they founded Project HOME (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, Education) in 1989. Since then, Project HOME has grown from an emergency winter shelter to nearly 1,000 units of housing and social enterprise programs that provide employment to individuals who have experienced homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.
Project HOME has helped thousands break the cycle of homelessness and poverty through permanent supportive housing, employment opportunities, medical care and education.
“The mission of the Project HOME community is to empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, and to enable all of us to attain our fullest potential as individuals and as members of the broader society,” the nonprofit said. “We strive to create a safe and respectful environment where we support each other in our struggles for selfesteem, recovery and the confidence to move toward self-actualization.”
Project HOME does more than just help the homeless. It works to address the root causes of homelessness, helping to rebuild low-income neighborhoods and working to improve public policies for those in need.
Dawson McConnon has stewarded the investment of hundreds of millions of public and private dollars around a single goal — ending and preventing chronic street homelessness in Philadelphia, the poorest of the nation’s 10 largest cities. She has led the organization from a startup with very limited means to an operation with a $43 million annual budget today.
“The most fundamental lesson I have learned through working at Project HOME is the transformational power of relationships,” Dawson McConnon said. “Whether they are relationships with women and men who have inspired us with their courage and perseverance in overcoming homelessness or relationships with those in positions of power and material wealth who have inspired us by their commitment to being part of the solution to end chronic homelessness, we are all transformed through our work together.”
In response to the City of Philadelphia’s opioid use disorder crisis, Project HOME has completed a new residence in Philadelphia’s Kensington community — the Maguire Residence, comprising 42 units of permanent, supportive and affordable housing. It will complete another, the Fitzgerald Recovery Residence — eight units of emergency housing and 54 units of permanent, supportive, affordable housing — that will provide real-time services and housing solutions to individuals seeking to overcome opioid use disorder, housing insecurity, or both.
“As I look ahead, I want to continue to search across our nation for solutions that work and to collaborate with colleagues to operationalize strategies that work and secure the resources needed to end this tragedy of chronic homelessness in our city,” Dawson McConnon said.
Joan Dawson McConnon lives in Springfield, Pennsylvania (where she grew up) with her husband, Mark. The couple have three children: James, Annie, and Sarah.
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