Stephanie Sena

Internationally Recognized & Award-winning Homeless Eradication Expert

Stephanie Sena is the founder and executive director of the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia (SREHUP), a non-profit homeless shelter operating since 2011, where students provide shelter, food, and community to individuals experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. She is the Villanova University Anti-Poverty Fellow and Full Time Faculty Member of the Villanova Law School where she works to advance creative and innovative ways to solve the problem of poverty in the United States and leads the Initiative to End Poverty and Inequality, an interdisciplinary enterprise housed in the Charles Widger School of Law. Her awards include the Villanova University Pohlhaus-Stracciolini Award for Teaching Excellence, for “demonstrating a commitment to the life of the mind and to the well-being of students through teaching that is intellectually stimulating, challenging, and accessible, with efforts extending beyond the classroom,” and the Greater Philadelphia Social Innovators Award for Social Impact in the area of housing and homelessness. A sought-after speaker, she has given talks at universities, schools, and religious institutions across the country as well as at the 3rd Annual Peaceable Kingdom Conference and TEDxPhiladelphia.

SREHUP has a proven track record of success in helping shelter clients achieve housing. SREHUP links guests who stay at the shelter to social workers and services they need to sustain permanent housing. In the course of working as an advocate for the homeless, Sena recognized a gap in the services. During the winter people were dying of hypothermia on the streets of Philadelphia. Many of those who died from hypothermia were homeless with their pets because there were no shelters in Philadelphia that house people and their pets. Most pet shelters in Philadelphia have a high rate of animal euthanasia. SREHUP had been operating shelters in churches for over seven years and had to turn away countless individuals who are seeking shelter with their pets—pets who are in most cases their best friend and only companion. To fix this problem, Sena worked with a large coalition of partners to launch The Breaking Bread Village, the first shelter initiative in the Philadelphia region to house both people and their pets, and work to get them back on their feet. The initiative also increases the inventory of affordable housing through client/volunteer rehabbing of vacant houses. Sena also works to increase the services available to people who are homeless and low income, and advocates for policy changes needed to create a more just and equitable community, one in which all people have access to the resources they need to thrive.

Before becoming the Villanova University Anti-Poverty Fellow and Full Time Faculty Member of the Villanova Law School Villanova, Stephanie Sena taught the history of poverty, homelessness, and resistance movements in Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice. She trains her students to be critical thinkers, capable of being good stewards of the world’s resources, and compassionate citizens who advocate for a more just society.