North Philly resident Staci Moore serves as co-chair for Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP), where she has been volunteering her time since 1997. WCRP means so much to her because, in her words, “Affordable housing is a cause I deeply understand due to my own experience with homelessness. WCRP was the place that truly recognized my and other community women with lived experience as experts who have the right to speak up about their own experience. WCRP respected my voice when I didn’t think I had one or a right to speak.”
For her volunteer work at WCRP, Moore sits on the executive committee. She has sat on every committee there, from personnel, where they reviewed staff salaries, to finance. Moore has always been on the advocacy committee—through outreach, she has helped to create resources for local affordable housing.
Moore relocated from Florida to Philadelphia and lived with her son in a homeless shelter in the city. “I and my son stayed at the Salvation Army on Broad and Fairmount for 10 1/2 months (from 1992 to 1993) before I was awarded with a Section 8 Housing Voucher. Because I had my own judgments about people who were in shelters, I became very withdrawn and depressed,” she said. “Even once we left the shelter, I was still depressed for years afterward and didn’t realize it. I didn’t even think I had a right to speak up about anything.”
Moore, who is now 50 years old, made a promise to herself that she would fight the good fight with WCRP for affordable housing until they had achieved a goal of at least helping to create 20,000 new affordable units of housing in a city where at least 40,000 was needed. And that was when she first joined WCRP. “Fast forward to today and at least 20,000 to 40,000 more units are needed. Needless to say, I don’t feel as if I can ‘retire’ from volunteering just yet,” she said.
Moore still lives in North Philly within what is now known as Northern Liberties. “The community has changed a lot and only my close friend lives around the corner from me. Other than a few other people in the neighborhood, I don’t have a lot of deep ties to the community,” she admitted. “My son also has a few ties to the neighborhood and it’s also the neighborhood that he grew up in.”
Moore said that she and her now, 29-year-old son, are well, although they are surrounded with the reality that there are no other affordable housing options within Northern Liberties. Because of that, she couldn’t be more grateful for her landlord.
For local moms who are struggling, Moore’s advice is to keep at it. “And believe me, I know that can sound like words and when you’re depressed, you don’t think of how that depression, your depression, affects your children but it does. Also, don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. Everyone at some point in their lives needed help; don’t believe that ‘bootstraps’ malarkey,” she told me. “Find a cause that you believe in and then find a good organization that works toward that cause, that will see you as a partner in that cause and join them in that fight.”
Nora Lichtash, WCRP’s executive director, praised Moore as a strong leader. One area is an ongoing focus on building leadership skills. “We just finished the People’s University—that Staci was an active facilitator and presenter in—that supports people in understanding what are the policies that are critical to those in communities, especially low income, people of color, women, and how can we ensure that this election includes those issues,” Lichtash said. “Candidates are asked questions about those issues; we understand where they stand on those issues. We hold them accountable after the election.” The People’s University is a set of workshops with five sessions that take place each month.
WCRP is part of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities. “We are trying to push elected officials, especially City Council, in doing two things: one is to create new resources for affordable housing, especially for people like Staci, who earn less than 30 percent of the area median and who understand personally the need for affordable housing,” said Lichtash. “The second thing is to push the city to ensure that vacant blighted land in many neighborhoods, including neighborhoods increasing in value, goes to more affordable housing, jobs and schools.” That coalition is pushing in the next year to try to get additional resources into their Housing Trust Fund. WCRP was successful in winning about $70 million over five years but that is going to end at five years, and they want this to be permanent.
WCRP was able to get land in an area that is changing rapidly: Point Breeze and Grays Ferry. Moore has been involved in helping WCRP push to get land in that neighborhood that is publicly held by the government. WCRP is hoping to get funding to build more rental units. They have funding to build five new homes; this is their first homeownership project that is called the Mainie Nichols Homeownership Project.
Moore also sits on the housing committee; design professionals and people who live in WCRP homes are involved in the design of their houses. WCRP is about to build 35 new homes this summer in Germantown called the Nicole Hinds Townhomes. They will start out as rental and eventually will be for sale to tenants.