Urban Missions and Service Experiences for Youth, Adult, and Family Groups

Cities » Philadelphia


Facts and Figures

The fifth largest city in the U.S., Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love, the birthplace of cheese steaks, the home of liberty, and the land of Rocky.

William Penn founded Philadelphia in the late 1600’s and called it his “religious experiment” because of his desire to see it as a city where people of all religions could live.

Philadelphia is also known as the “city of firsts” because so many of the country’s firsts happened here.

According to the 2010 census, 1.5 million people live inside the city limits with another 3.6 million living in the greater metro area. The population is 42.2% African-American, 36.9% white, 6.3% Asian, 12.3% Hispanic and about 2.1% other races.

The city covers 135 square miles.

Did You Know That…

Fairmount Park is the world’s largest landscaped urban park with over 8,900 acres and has the oldest US zoo.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote A Tell Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has more outdoor artwork and sculptures than any other city in the world.

1 out of every 6 doctors in the U.S. graduated from a Philadelphia medical school or teaching hospital.

Elfreth’s Street in Olde City is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the U.S.

The nation’s first public school was established in Philadelphia in 1689, the first public library in 1731, the first volunteer fire company in 1736, the first fire insurance company in 1752 and America’s first hospital in 1755.

People, Problems, Issues

Philadelphia is all about the neighborhood, tight communities that care for one another. It's a great place to live, but it also faces some tough issues. In several neighborhoods, the percentage of people living in poverty is over 40%, and about 30% of children live below the poverty line. Philadelphia is also one of the most segregated cities in the country.

There are over 4,000 homeless people in the city of Philadelphia. About 300-500 will sleep outside on any given night. This is related to high unemployment rates, which at the height of the recession in 2008 hit over 15%. This is also related to the poor school system in Philadelphia, where about 40% of students do not graduate, and just over 50% of working adults hold high school diplomas. In schools, teacher attrition rate is about 3 years. Supplies are also low, with about one textbook available for every four children.

Finally, housing is an issue in Philadelphia. There is a lack of affordable housing available which keeps low-income families in cycles of poverty, forcing them to rent or stay in city sponsored housing. Meanwhile, there are over 40,000 vacant properties and lots that present significant challenges to low-income neighborhoods in particular.

There are over 2,000 churches (listed in yellow pages).

Insights on the City

by Brittany Nyce (City Director)

Downtown PhillyAt major intersections around the perimeter of the city are signs that say, "Welcome to Philadelphia. Enjoy our past; Experience our future." Every time I drive by one of these signs, I am reminded of truth and hope that is accompanied with that sentiment.

Philadelphia is rooted in a deep history - nicknamed the birthplace of America. The Liberty Bell finds its home here. The men who are named the fathers of our nation walked our streets and made their homes here, building the city on a foundation of justice and freedom. Yet so often the story of the city "of brotherly love" does not point to this freedom. Philly has become characterized by a crumbling school system, a large number of abandoned homes, violence and drug addiction. It does not appear to be a place that is walking towards a grander experience of the future.

But in that, the city remains anchored to the tension between the old and the new, the already and not yet. Murals are painted over graffiti, uniting neighborhoods under banners of awareness, joy and celebration. The cobblestone streets are swept revealing the richness that was covered with the litter of today. Holidays are celebrated with gusto and joy. Fairmount Park covers over 9,200 acres of landscaped open space promoting physical activities and peace from the busyness of urban centers. The experience of our future looks less bleak.

I love that we get to make a home in the city "where old and new beckon." Will you join those who are committed to making all things new in our community?

CSM Ministry Site Sampler

MANNA (Metropolitan AIDS Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) is a non-profit organization that delivers nourishment to people living with HIV/AIDS. Volunteers and staff work together to provide three nutritious meals a day, free of charge, Monday through Saturday. Manna serves over 2,000 meals a day.

Philabundance Food Bank works to end hunger and malnutrition in the Delaware Valley by providing agencies with inexpensive food products. These agencies are then able to provide people in need with nutritious food that they would not be able to afford otherwise. Our groups assist the Food Bank with this process by sorting and organizing all of the food donations.

Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission provides chapel services, meals, short-term emergency sleeping, men’s recovery/discipleship program, and a thrift store. Sunday Breakfast is 126 years old, the second oldest rescue mission in the nation. The mission started by serving meals on Sunday and now they do three meals a day. They provide food for the body and the soul with a noon and evening chapel. Our groups help prepare lunch and attend the chapel service.

Hands of Hope is an outreach ministry to homeless. The goal is to scripturally meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of hurting people in a practical way. Hands of Hope meets the homeless where they are and in whatever condition they may be. Our groups get to hand out lunches, talk to, and pray with people on the streets.

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