Honoree Headshot

Sister Mary Scullion

Executive Director
Project HOME

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1989
Industry: Nonprofit Health and Human Services

Sister Mary Scullion’s entrepreneurial spirit did not develop in a lecture hall or board room; it grew from the streets of Philadelphia. In the early 1980s, Scullion lived in solidarity and community with hundreds of people experiencing homelessness in Center City, Philadelphia. She slept where and when she could and grew to know the network of public restrooms by heart. She relied on fleeting moments of a stranger’s kindness for food.

“It was the hardest thing I ever did,” she told the Philadelphia Award in 1991. “I returned really depleted.”

That struggle also provided an urgency to address homelessness in her hometown. In 1985, Scullion co-founded Women of Hope, which provided housing to women experiencing chronic street homelessness and/or mental illness. Three years later, she founded the Outreach Coordination Center (OCC), which provides services from public and private agencies to more effectively support individuals experiencing homelessness. In 1988, Scullion’s model for the OCC was the first of its kind in the country. Today, the model is a blueprint for major cities nationwide.

In 1989, Scullion co-founded Project HOME (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, Education) with Joan Dawson McConnon. Under their leadership, Project HOME has grown from an emergency winter shelter to nearly 1,000 units of housing, small businesses that provide employment to formerly homeless persons, a federally qualified healthcare center and an education resource center for youth and adults.

“None of us are home until all of us are home,” Scullion said.

Project HOME does more than just help those experiencing homelessness. It works to address the root causes, helping to rebuild low-income neighborhoods and working to improve public policies for those in need.

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, 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 and affordable housing — that will provide real-time services and housing solutions to individuals seeking to overcome opioid use disorder, housing insecurity or both.

Scullion serves on the board of trustees of St. Joseph’s University and the board of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. She also chaired the Hunger and Homelessness Committee for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in 2015. Scullion has provided her voice to political issues affecting homelessness and individuals with mental illness. Her advocacy resulted in the right of homeless persons to vote as well as a landmark federal court decision that affects the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities.

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi has described Scullion as “the only nun who swears and spits.” According to her staff, Scullion would be quick to add that she does not spit.

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Honoree fun fact

Multi-platinum recording artist Jon Bon Jovi has described S. Mary Scullion as “the only Nun who swears and spits.” S. Mary would be quick to add that she does not spit.

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