Nuestra Casa es Su Casa! – “Our house is your house”!
Casa del Carmen has been serving the Latino immigrant population of North Philadelphia since 1954. Last year, over 5,700 people were served through one of the many programs run at Casa. This Catholic Social Services Family Service Center is located in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is 40% Latino. As such, Casa staff are bilingual and almost 90% of Casa’s clients are Latino, many of whom only speak Spanish. The median age is 32.6 and 65% of households have children under the age of 18 in the home. Casa aims to serve and empower the whole family through a variety of program offerings.
The foundational commitment of Casa is ensuring that all clients have the basics they need to survive. Two food markets and a clothing bank assist over 3,400 people with these essentials throughout the year. The Green Light Market, only one of two in Philadelphia, utilizes a unique approach to serving clients by offering them a choice of food from fresh fruits and vegetables (many grown in Casa’s own backyard), frozen meats (again, one of only two sites in the City), and nonperishable staples. These food items are offered through a partnership with the Coalition Against Hunger. The Market is open two days a week and clients are welcome to visit once every two weeks for food. The approach is different because clients can walk through the market with a staff or volunteer member, simulating a “shopping experience” because they can choose what foods match their needs and taste preferences. Beyond food assistance, clients can benefit from nutrition education classes to give them the knowledge they need to make healthy food choices when shopping for groceries. An Emergency Hotline for Catholic Social Services based at Casa offers rent/mortgage and utility assistance. And as a BenePhilly site, Casa has certified counselors who help clients ascertain which public assistance and benefit entitlement programs they qualify for, and then assist clients with the paperwork to ensure successful applications.
For parents with young children and growing families, Casa offers programs that help strengthen the family unit. This effort begins with pregnancy classes which teach expectant parents the necessities of proper nutrition, techniques to cope with stress, and how to encourage their children’s social development. Parenting classes serve parents of young children by equipping them with the skills needed to ensure children grow up in caring and supportive households, and parent cafes provide a safe and welcoming venue for parents to share concerns and resources as well as offer group support.
Once children reach the age of 3, Casa Academy – a robust preschool learning environment – provides full-service affordable Daycare that equips young children with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they will need to be successful in school. Casa’s early childhood education professionals utilize structured play activities to help young children build the skills to prepare for entering Kindergarten. Further, once they have graduated from the program, after-school and full-day summer camp programs offer a safe place to continue their growing and learning.
Casa also offers Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes through a partnership with The Community College of Philadelphia. Through the ESL Institute of CCP, participants are able to attend beginner, intermediate, and high intermediate classes right in their own neighborhood at Casa. Classes are offered throughout the academic year and are taught by certified CCP professors.