BY NOW, the Hub of Hope, Project HOME's seasonal social-service center for the homeless in Suburban Station, should be buzzing with men and women wanting to see a case worker or a doctor or just get a short reprieve from the cold with a tepid cup of coffee or a pair of socks.
But in a cruel irony, the Hub of Hope is homeless.
In November, the landlord who had donated the space for the past three winters sent word that he would no longer be able to "due to complaints from tenants and brokers."
What the complaints were, no one knows for sure. And my calls to representatives of 2 Penn Center, which includes the Suburban Station concourse, went unanswered.
But I did receive an emailed statement from Paul Levy, president and CEO of the Center City District.
"The Center City District reached out to the building managers' association [BOMA] and other property managers to make them aware of Hub of Hope's interest in securing space in the concourse. But it is a property owner's decision as to whether or not they want to enter into a lease with any party, market or nonprofit."
So far no one's stepping up, so the folks at Project HOME are scrambling. They were supposed to open for the season on Monday. And although while they have a contingency plan to offer some services elsewhere, they want to stay in the concourse where they can more easily reach the most chronically homeless.
"We want to be where people congregate, and the concourse is where many go to get warm," said the Hub's program director, Karen Orrick. "We know there is a problem, and being there we are able to offer a solution."
Look, I understand that having a bunch of homeless people hanging around can be bad for business and tourism. I don't like the la-la land these rose-colored fancy folk live in, but I get it. And if I'm being totally honest, I don't love being hassled for money while waiting in the Dunkin' Donuts line, either, mostly because it cuts into my doughnut budget.
But the Hub was located in an out-of-the-way section of the concourse that was hard to find even if you were looking for it. And if those who complained want to clear their sight lines of the homeless, getting rid of an on-the-ground service that helped many get off the streets seems a backward way of solving the problem.
Inside the cramped former beauty parlor just below 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, some of the city's most chronically homeless were able to access housing assistance, doctors and case managers. During three winters, the Hub was able to place more than 500 people in housing.
Among them was Sam Vazquez, 49, who was homeless for 10 years before walking into the Hub two years ago.
"I was getting too tired of being on the streets," he said. "I needed help, and that's why I came down there."
Last year he worked at the Hub, greeting homeless friends, making coffee and cleaning up. He now has his own place.
"They really did a lot for me," he said. "They do a lot for a lot of people."
He's not the only supporter of the Hub. SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said the Hub has been a tremendous resource for his officers.
"Standard protocol was rather than throwing homeless out into 9-degree weather, we could offer an option of going to the Hub of Hope for help," he said. "We were able to get a lot of resistant homeless people to accept help in order to stay inside, so it was a win for everyone."
Now what? I wondered when I walked around the station yesterday afternoon.
Who will help the thin, young man, talking with himself while compulsively circling a marble pillar outside Au Bon Pain? Where will the older gentleman discreetly sleeping on one of the benches go? What about the two ladies who shared a cup of coffee near carts piled high with all their belongings, including a yellow teddy bear holding a heart that said, "You are special."
Orrick said she is grateful to the property owner who donated the space for the past three winters. But she still hopes that someone else will offer up space in the concourse soon.
"For me it sort of felt like a miracle every year that we got the space," Orrick said.
I see what she means. But it shouldn't be so miraculous to do right by people in need.
On Twitter: @NotesFromHel