#iamsubject project – Our Place

Our Place

Introducing Myself and My Mission

My name is Lisa Renee Hirsch. I have been living in Philadelphia since becoming pregnant with my son, Christian in 1999. Because I have already -shunted hydrocephalus and medicine resistant bi-polar disorder, it is very difficult to maintain gainful employment. Tack on a child with autism who’s deaf and has self- imposed, sensory related incontinence and I, admittedly, have quit trying to find a job altogether.

Which brings me to my mission, which is two-fold. Part one: How to find a legitimate potential for income earning. Part Two: Suitable recreation and future income earning potential for my son.

I am forced to accept the monthly social security stipend in order to support my son. I am also forced to depend on the undependable court ordered child support from Christian’s deadbeat dad because SSI is income based and child support is unearned income, which is just a link in a chain that binds me to the system. I don’t want to be forced to accept SSI because I can’t support my son myself and his father refuses to acknowledge his existence. I need to think of a way to earn money that’s a little outside the box that life has tried to stuff me into.

I love my son and I want for him the same things any other mother would want for her child. I just want him to have a chance. I can’t allow life to defeat him before he even gets to junior high school. I feel trapped in the system and I feel like I am doomed to continue the cycle by raising a child who will remain in the system long after he reaches adulthood.

Suitable recreation is another difficult portion of my job as a mother. Christian is not well suited to typical playgrounds because of the steep slides with narrow landings and swarms of recklessly racing children. Typically developing children far outnumber children like Christian and they also require and are entitled to recreation as well, so I keep Christian home. It’s not fair and I can no longer accept it.

What is a person like myself to do? What if there was a community supported Art Center, Gallery and Theater for members of the community like myself and my son to find our passion and sell it to the world? If all the resources were community donated, all proceeds from gallery events and theater productions could go to the participants. The way I see it, it’s win- win- win. Through fundraisers and other donations, the Arts center could support the clients and the clients could possibly support themselves through participation. It could conceivably cost several million dollars up front, but what amazing dividends this program could potentially offer.

It also occurs to me that affordable housing is a huge component to any healthy lifestyle. Many families living on fixed incomes are forced to cohabit-ate to share expenses. That could end up causing a whole slew of other problems due to space, excessive disciplinarians and pseudo siblings.

The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment (utilities extra) is $700 per month. The average cost of a three-bedroom house in Mayfair (Northeast Philadelphia) is $900. The average disability payment for PA $1300. This amount of income disqualifies food assistance. The average SSI payment for low income disabled without work credits is $731.This amount will allow for food assistance of $350 per month for a family of two.

Our Place Affordable Housing and Recreation Center, for families with disabled members, is vital to establishing healthy productive and enriching lives to families who struggle everyday with normal activities of life. Approximate one-time expenses include:

  • A building that is four stories including a basement
  • A large grassy area for picnics and a boundless playground  (does not yet exist in PA) and ample off street parking. A school that is no longer being used would work well.

Approximate Monthly expenses are 40,000 and include rent, staff salaries, insurance, and utilities. Cafeteria expenses could cover themselves.

$2,000,000 could superfund this project and change the lives of dozens, if not hundreds of people in NE Philadelphia alone. Please help me help myself and as many others as possible.

The Center could offer as many weekly workshops as possible for all who wish to attend, including:

Cooking healthy

Cooking for crowds

Cooking with kids

Writing poems

Writing short stories

Writing novels

Writing for magazines

Writing for television

Writing horror

Writing drama

Writing comedy



American Sign for beginners

ASL for intermediate

ASL for advanced


Comedy stand up

American Society for Deaf Children style parenting workshops

Behavior strategies

Non-special siblings

Multi diagnosis

Assistive technology

Special ed fails (comp ed fund ideas for best usage)

How to be your child’s best advocate

What this all boils down to is chance. Everybody deserves a chance and I’m just hoping that Our Place will level the playing field for those who, like myself, were not given all the same equipment as the rest of the players.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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