The Place of Refuge (Refuge) is a place of help…of healing…of hope. Our work in providing professional, trauma-informed, culturally-sensitive, faith-based counseling and training services to North Philadelphia residents is rooted in our desire to see this community uplifted, encouraged, and left stronger in the Lord.

Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims [Judith Herman, M.D., Harvard University (renowned author and trauma expert)].

History of the Place of Refuge

According to Dr. Judith Herman, trauma is one of the most formidable barriers to producing and maintaining healthy, engaged citizens capable of making quality contributions to society. During 14 years of meeting with North Philadelphia residents and pastors, Refuge co-founders Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez (Executive Director) and Dr. Diane Langberg (Board Co-Chair) witnessed the profound impact trauma and other mental health challenges had on individuals, families, and the entire community. They saw first-hand the limited access to quality mental health care for those who needed it most. Created to serve the city in this way, Refuge was established as a ministry with the hope that it could set a high standard of clinical excellence in serving some of the most disadvantaged individuals in the nation. 

The work began offering individualized counseling in scattered, borrowed spaces. By 2008, Refuge had grown and was able to open a beautiful, welcoming facility in the heart of Latino North Philadelphia—truly a place of refuge for all who enter and receive care.

Refuge Today

Since becoming fully credentialed at the state and city levels in October 2009, our services have expanded greatly. Our programs are delivered in four areas that align with our objectives:

We provide bicultural and bilingual counseling to individuals, couples, and families suffering from trauma, abuse, family problems, anxiety, depression, grief, and other mental health issues regardless of ability to pay. 

We increase community awareness of urban mental health issues and the resources available to address them through outreach to local caregivers, pastors, teachers and other leaders. 

We train and equip neighborhood professionals, clergy and other lay-leaders to provide basic counseling support for community families through their congregations and agencies. 

Refuge continues to develop as a site for mental health professional training and internships. We provide highly-focused clinical experiences in two key areas: 1) trauma counseling in a community- and faith-based context; and 2) developing cultural competency in the counseling relationship. 

Those We Serve

Through direct counseling, we primarily serve women, couples, and families impacted by trauma, abuse, depression, grief, and loss. According to 2012 U.S. census data, the median annual household income in our neighborhood (zip code 19133) was only $14,300, the lowest of any zip code in the city of Philadelphia; 35 percent of households in 19133 have annual incomes less than $10,000. 19133 also has the highest concentration of Latinos in Philadelphia (57 percent of all residents); 60 percent of Latinos in 19133 live below the federal poverty level, nearly three times the national rate of 23.5 percent. This pronounced lack of financial resources, compounded by other social challenges, severely limits the way into the heart of this community. 

Refuge and the Gospel

With much care and prayer, we have been purposeful in our task as counselor and teacher to create a safe space for our clients where they feel respected, appreciated, and most of all loved.

Many walk through our doors feeling hopeless and afraid. Yet through the work of the Spirit, many leave Refuge feeling hope restored and renewed—some after many years in darkness. We are keenly aware that what we do here could not be accomplished except through the power of Christ at work in each of the lives of our counselors and staff. Supporting this ministry helps us keep our doors open to those who truly seek a place of restoration and healing. Our prayer is that God would allow us to continue this much-needed work for many more years to come.

© 2022 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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