The attraction might have been world famous recording artist Jon Bon Jovi, but the reason was anything but his singing. Bon Jovi, who co-owns the Philadelphia Soul, participated in an event on Monday marking the revitalization of the 1900 block of North 23rd Street in North Central Philadelphia. It signaled the completion of the project that will see 13 families move into renovated homes before the holidays and two more after the New Year thanks to the partnership between Project H.O.M.E and the Soul. All of these houses have been built by using "green building strategies" that have taken these existing structures and turned them into energy efficient homes.
It was great to see what happened after we rebuilt all those homes in New Orleans. That was a very rewarding experience. When I bought the Soul I said we are going to make a difference in this community and I think we have.
--Soul co-owner Jon Bon Jovi
Project H.O.M.E, founded in 1989, is a non-profit organization that strives to end homelessness with a unique approach. Participants must complete a series of steps to become a homeowner, including having a full time job and maintaining a bank account.
"I was reading American history books a few years ago and I saw a homeless man sitting outside Philadelphia city hall from my hotel room.
I thought this is not what I envision from my country," Bon Jovi said Monday in a telephone interview with ESPN.com.
Project H.O.M.E has allowed more than 7,000 people to escape homelessness. For Bon Jovi, the most rewarding part is the expression on people's faces when they receive their first home. He's worked with Habitat for Humanity and he and Soul minority owner Richie Sambora made a $1 million donation to Oprah's Angel Network to build 28 homes in Houma, La., after Hurricane Katrina. In all, the Soul as an organization has donated more than $2 million to local causes since its inception in 2003.
"Some people just need a leg up and it is great to see what happens when they get it." Bon Jovi said. "It was great to see what happened after we rebuilt all those homes in New Orleans. That was a very rewarding experience. When I bought the Soul I said we are going to make a difference in this community and I think we have."
The reaction has been positive form the Philadelphia community.
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell donated personal money to Project H.O.M E. Bon Jovi is close friends with former President Bill Clinton, who has helped with the project. Clinton even wrote about Sister Mary Scullion, the Project's Director, in his book.
"Here you have someone who was once the most powerful men in the world kowtowing to Sister Mary," Bon Jovi said. "Pretty incredible."
William Bendetson covers pro football for ESPN.com.