From the News page
December 4, 2017
As the US Senate debates its tax legislation, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the potential consequences of the bill on our efforts to address homelessness in Philadelphia:
- More people will become homeless.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has found that Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers. Taxes paid by low and middle income people will go up over time. Households that are barely holding on will be stressed further increasing evictions and housing instability. We already have many people in our homeless system who work but can’t afford a place to live.
- There will be less money to support homeless programs.
Programs funded through HUD will be cut. This is how. The tax cuts will result in a $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit. The 2010 law that to control the deficit will then trigger “pay go” spending cuts. This would mean significant cuts to HUD. Philly currently gets about $30 million a year from HUD to house people. We do not have a way to replace that money.
- There will be fewer mental health and drug treatment services available.
Elimination of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act would cause 13 million people to lose health insurance coverage and reduce Medicaid, the main way the city funds services through permanent supportive housing which has a 90% success rate.
To learn more the City has published an ACTION GUIDE.
October 15, 2017
Suburban Station getting a new stop: A service center for Philly’s homeless
Philadehia Inquirer/Daily News/philly.com
by Jason Laughlin, Staff Writer
“Sitting on a bench along Suburban Station’s concourse, Furtic also talked about literally staying clean — how much a person without a home values something as simple as a shower. A washing machine for dirty clothes. A meal. A place to sit down.”
“A few hundred yards away, down a forgotten corridor among Suburban Station’s warren of tunnels, the whine of buzz saws and power drills echo. SEPTA workers are erecting the steel skeleton of a $1.4 million service center for the city’s homeless — a place designed to offer all the things Furtic said matter to someone living on the streets.” Read the story
June 22, 2017
The Fair Chance Hiring Initiative was created to encourage businesses to hire Philadelphians returning from prison.
“As it’s been made clear time and time again, finding a job is one of the most important factors that help those returning from prison to find success and avoid the hugely consequential problem of recidivism Philly is trying to tackle.
To encourage more companies to hire returning citizens, a practice that has shown to reap benefits for both employer and employee, the city’s Department of Commerce announced yesterday it’s launching the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative (FCHI), a pilot program meant to provide reimbursements to businesses that participate in this sort of open hiring.” Read the Article
Ending Homelessness for People Living in Encampments: Lessons from Philadelphia, PA
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness releases study on “Encampments.” Read the Study
May 31, 2017
Bethesda Project Opens New Bethesda Serenity Location In Partnership With Philadelphia’s Office Of Homeless Services
Bethesda Project, a Philadelphia nonprofit providing services for homeless individuals since 1979, announced the opening of its 14th location, Bethesda Serenity, a permanent supportive housing site located in South Philadelphia and operated in partnership with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS). Bethesda Serenity provides permanent housing to women experiencing chronic homelessness. The residents were housed after a successful season at Bethesda Project’s women’s winter respite, The Well, which was run this past winter season in conjunction with The Welcome Church and Trinity Memorial Church.
This innovative housing model provides Housing-First service delivery with an opportunity to maintain the vital community and relationships already established in the lives of the women. Read More
May 8, 2017
Vacant, Accessible Housing is Available in Philadelphia
Twenty units are for young adults (18-23) who aged out of foster care, are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They will be given priority for the PHA units designated for Youth. All 88 units subsidized through PHA; priority given to applicants that are homeless, previously homeless, at risk of becoming homeless. More
April 17, 2017
SEPTA seeking to curb subway panhandling
But first time offenders get off with a warning
” …. plainclothes and uniformed SEPTA police officers have been working to curb subway panhandling. The transportation agency reported that the enforcement campaign, which is focused on preventing begging on board trains, came after a surge in customer complaints about aggressive panhandling.” Read the full article.
Follow the guidelines for pnahandling published by the Office of Homeless Services on our Be Street Smart page.
March 20, 2017
Philadelphia City Council hearing on the Eviction Crisis & related issues on March 20th, 2017.
On Monday, March 20th City Council will hold a hearing on eviction and substandard housing, which, as you know, has an impact on homelessness. Eva Gladstein will be testifying for our Health and Human Services Cabinet. This was introduced by Councilwoman Gym, another tireless advocate for people in need. Here is the Council Resolution if you want to see it: https://phila.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2877153&GUID=EF5C4BDD-A061-4897-A800-7BE0E3C21098&Options=ID|Text|&Search=160988
Every year, tens of thousands of Philadelphians face eviction. And many of these people–mostly single mothers, people of color, and people living in poverty–must fight with no legal support. Evictions aren’t just an effect of poverty–they are a leading cause as well. Not only can evictions intensify poverty, they can also create it.That’s why Philadelphia City Council is holding a hearing to examine the issues facing Philly renters whose lives are upended by substandard housing, eviction, and homelessnes with a goal of mapping out a framework for protecting and supporting low-income renters. More Information on the City Council Hearing is at https://www.facebook.com/events/1395614357156432/.
For more information on the Eviction Crisis from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, please visit https://clsphila.org/learn-about-issues/eviction-crisis-philadelphia.
March 13, 2017
City Council hearing held on homelessness prevention. View Testimony and Witness List.
On March 13, the Director of Homeless Services, Liz Hersh, testified before City Council about increased, coordinated homelessness prevention. Read her testimony. To read the testimonies of the other advocates click here
WHYY news article: Advocates for homeless seek Philadelphia rent-assistance funding to reduce need for shelters
Newsworks // Katie Colaneri
How much would it cost to stop homelessness before it starts in Philadelphia?
A group of advocates for homeless families say $3 million would be a start. The Family Service Provider Network said Philadelphia’s shelter system is log jammed. Many families are turned away because there are no beds available, while many others can’t find an affordable place to live so they can leave the system.
“Shelter is not the solution, we’re not asking for more shelters,” said Rachel Falkove, executive director of the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Falkove was one of more than a dozen people who spoke at a City Council hearing Monday about the shelter crisis.… Mayor Jim Kenney has already allocated an extra $1 million for homeless services programs in his current budget proposal. The Family Service Provider Network’s $3 million ask for prevention efforts would require council members to push for more during the budget process.
March 10, 2017
Office of Homeless Services statement regarding services available to individuals experiencing homelessness during the predicted snowstorm
Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services declared Code Blue on Friday, March 10th at 8PM until further notice in an effort to prevent weather related deaths among people experiencing homelessness during dangerously cold temperatures. Homeless Services issues Code Blue when the National Weather Service predicts wind chill temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below, or precipitation with temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thanks to the efforts of homeless outreach, Philly and SEPTA police, private citizens and homeless service providers, no person experiencing homelessness has died due to exposure since January 2015. We hope to make it through the rest of the harsh weather with this track record intact.
During a Code Blue, the city’s homeless outreach teams increase staffing and foot patrols throughout the city and transport homeless people directly to shelter 24 hours a day. Shelters remain open 24 hours a day. Philadelphia Police also transport homeless people to a shelter. We have an additional 304 beds and 124 Café slots for Code Blue.
We urge concerned citizens who see a person sleeping outdoors to call Homeless Outreach at 215-232-1984. Homeless outreach teams are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If someone’s life is in danger due to exposure and they won’t voluntarily come in, outreach teams or police may seek court action to hospitalize them for self care reasons.
We discourage the public from providing the homeless with items such as sleeping bags, tents, mattresses and food, which enable them to remain outside during the extreme cold instead of coming into a shelter – and subjects them to further danger and health risks stemming from prolonged exposure to the elements.
March 9, 2017
City Provides Residents with Resources on Federal Action
March 9, 2017
Published By: Office of the Mayor
PHILADELPHIA – As part of an effort to inform all City residents on recent federal actions, the City of Philadelphia has produced action guides on Immigration and Sanctuary Cities and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These guides include quick facts and other resources for those looking to support populations affected by the federal policies. Action guides on other topics will be produced in the coming weeks.
“An overwhelming number of residents reached out asking for more information about what these policies mean for Philadelphia, and also asking what they can do to help protect the values our City holds dear,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “By placing this information in one convenient location we’ll be supporting both residents seeking information and volunteers looking to help. I’m proud to be mayor of a city that welcomes all and stands up for our most vulnerable.”
The main page for all action guides can be located HERE.
February 27, 2017
A search for the new Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities is underway.
You can review the job posting here. DBHIDS has transformed Philadelphia’s behavioral health system into a recovery-oriented system of care that has become a national model and achieved international acclaim. The Commissioner will take charge of this high-profile, innovative agency and will be expected to articulate a clear vision for implementing a population health approach that builds on the work of the past and brings the system to its next level of excellence. Interested applicants can send a cover letter and resume to Mary Horstmann at firstname.lastname@example.org. Resumes are reviewed as they come in, so please encourage individuals to send in their information soon. Thank you in advance for your help in getting the word out about this critical role.
February 21, 2017
Testimonial for one of our staff members from Owen Camuso, Program Manager, RHD FaSST/Connections
“You guys are great thank you for supporting the One Step Away vendors today. It’s a pleasure to work with good people!!! ”
February 16, 2017
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
- Innovative Clark County/UNLV Partnership Supports Unaccompanied Youth Transition to Higher Education
- 25 Cities Initiative Helped Drive Community-Level and National Progress
- Engaging Legal Services in Community Efforts to End Homelessness
- We Must All Be Part of the “No Wrong Door” Approach to Ending Homelessness
- In Case You Missed It: Rapid Re-Housing Works!
January 23, 2017
From Frederick S. Purnell, Sr., Deputy Director, Housing and Community Development “. . . I am pleased to release this study, Examining the Housing Situation for People Living With HIV in Philadelphia: A Qualitative Study.
From the Report: “In 2001, Culhane found that among people living with AIDS in Philadelphia, 9% had been admitted to a shelter in the three years prior to the study, a rate that was triple that of the general population for the same time-period. In another section of this current study, Metraux finds that between 2007 and 2014, 6.9% of people with AIDS in Philadelphia had at least one shelter stay, a rate that is more than double that of the general population. These results indicate that people living with HIV (PWH) are at considerable risk of experiencing homelessness. This report presents the results of a qualitative study examining the housing related challenges confronting PWH in Philadelphia, and the manner in which The Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA), a federal housing program for low-income people living with AIDS, is addressing these challenges.”
December 29, 2016
December 15, 2016
Real Change Open House
On Thursday December 15th at 4:00 pm, Mayor Kenney kicked off a Real Change Open House for residents to learn about and connect with 30 nonprofits that provide housing, food and social services to people experiencing homelessness year-round.
This Open House was free and open to the public and was hosted by the Office of Homeless Services, the Center City District and the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The event took place in room 108A at the convention center.
We encourage everyone to bear in mind that most of Philadelphia’s homeless population is invisible. These are families with children living in shelters so it is important they are not forgotten.
Concerned citizens who see a person living on the street should call Homeless Outreach at 215-232-1984 and report the sighting. Homeless Outreach teams are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
November 29, 2016
Youth Homelessness Service Providers Unveil Programming Expansion
$700,000 in new funding from Council allows Office of Homeless Services to significantly expand supports for youth experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA—Today, members of City Council came together with Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services, and youth homelessness service providers to announce the rollout of expanded initiatives to support youth experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.
Each year, hundreds of youth in Philadelphia experience homelessness, and up to 6,000 experience housing instability. Many of these youth have been involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and a disproportionate number are LGBTQ-identified. The City’s system of 439 beds dedicated to 18-24 year olds is inadequate for addressing the complex needs of these youth.
City Council held hearings earlier this year on youth homelessness and partnered with the Administration to provide an additional $700,000 to address the crisis. Through a competitive process, the Office of Homeless Services selected a unique and powerful Coalition to End Youth Homelessness as the collaborative applicant.
“This effort, which has been a long time coming, proves that Philadelphia doesn’t need to wait for change from above—we can and are making change in the lives of our children and youth right here, right now,” said Councilwoman Helen Gym (At Large), Chair of the Committee on Children and Youth, who spearheaded the expansion of youth homeless services alongside Councilmembers Domb and Blackwell.
“Philadelphia has the highest rate of millennials of any major city, and we must keep them here by providing opportunities, jobs, resources, services and most importantly a roof over their heads,” said Councilman Allan Domb (At Large), Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless. “Awarding these much needed funds puts our City on the right track towards achieving that goal.”
“For years we have been fighting to ensure that all Philadelphians have secure housing. I’m proud of this new effort to support our youth who have been left behind,” said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District), Chair of the Committee on Education.
The coalition was formed in 2016 and consists of five agencies: The Attic Youth Center, a haven for LGTBQ youth, Covenant House PA, Pathways PA, Valley Youth House, and Youth Service, Inc. The agencies will partner to expand the capacity of the homeless youth system by providing:
- 25 new crisis beds, adding capacity of serve 150 youth;
- 25 rapid re-housing beds with a minimum of 6 months rental assistance.
- 2 slots of 24-hour crisis day care for participants;
- 75 homeless youth will participate in job training and employment support.
In addition, 40 LGTBQ youth will receive specialized counseling and mentoring services.
“These new funds will enable the Youth Homelessness Collaborative to expand the youth homeless system by 12%. That’s a great down-payment on addressing this problem. We have the opportunity to change the future history of young people through employment and training, education and social services all anchored by a safe place to live,” said Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services.
Noting the importance of engaging youth in expanding these services, Donald Jackson, Care Outreach Specialist at Action Wellness who has himself endured homelessness, said, “Youth need to be involved in every process in order to help homeless youth in the city. It’s so important for us to be a part of this.”
“The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness will provide a continuum of services for young people in Philadelphia,” said Thomas R. Harrington, President and CEO of Valley Youth House, one of the coalition members. “We’re excited to embark on this new journey together.”
The Office of Homeless services projects the following outcomes as a result of the coalition’s work:
- 75 youth will live in stable housing;
- 75 youth will establish permanent connections;
- 75 youth will be employed;
- 40 youth will be enrolled in an educational program;
- 50 youth will access medical services;
- 175 unduplicated youth will actively participate in housing and/or supportive services.
November 23, 2016
Mayor Jim Kenney Launches Effort to Make Philadelphia’s Shared Public Spaces More Enjoyable for All
PHILADELPHIA – The Office of Homeless Services today announced a new effort by Mayor Jim Kenney to crack down on panhandling, address chronic street homelessness and streamline outdoor meal services at the vast amount of shared public spaces throughout the city including transit stations, plazas and streets.
A public-private workgroup comprised of more than a dozen leaders from the business, hospitality and civic communities will partner with leaders in the Mayor’s administration to strategize and take action to ensure that public spaces in Philadelphia can be utilized safely and enjoyed by all.
“We all share our public spaces, which help make the city fun, lively and exciting but they can also become crowded, dirty, intimidating and unpleasant at times,” Mayor Kenney said. “This is an effort to bring our stakeholders outside of government to the table and take action as a formalized public-private collective to ensure that we can all enjoy our public spaces safely, comfortably and with dignity and respect.”
Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy and Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Julie Coker Graham will co-chair the workgroup, which consists of four subcommittees each assigned to one of the following areas of action:
- Establishing clear standards for behavior in shared public spaces together with the tools and engagement to support them as a code of conduct;
- Strategizing and implementing real solutions to chronic street homelessness;
- Improving access to indoor meals and ensuring dignity and safety to meals when served outdoors; and
- Developing and implementing messaging, public information and communications around shared public spaces for businesses, residents and visitors alike.
Homeless Services Director Liz Hersh, who organized the workgroup on behalf of the Mayor, said the group will begin its duties in early December and intends to develop round-one action plans for all four focus areas by March 2017. “Given the growth and development in the city, our shared public spaces are being utilized much more fully and frequently,” Hersh said. “While this is certainly a good thing, we recognize that the greater volume of traffic necessitates revisiting rules of the road in the form of a code of conduct and robust service alternatives to ensure safety and dignity for us all.”
Nongovernment organizations participating in the workgroup include: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Center City District, WAWA, Parkway Council, AthenianRazak LLC, the Parkway Foundation, Broad Street Ministry, Food Access Collaborative, Temple University, Avenue of the Arts, Project HOME, Bethesda Project, Building Owners and Managers Association, Chronic Homelessness Partnership and managers of the Metro Market.
Participating city government agencies include: Office of Homeless Services, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Philadelphia Police Department, Parks and Recreation, Department of Commerce, Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, and members of Philadelphia City Council.
From the Press page
November 10, 2017
PHL Participatory Design Lab to launch next week
The Office of Homeless Services and the Department of Revenue are working to improve their interactions with the public. Read two stories:
October 25,2017, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Rapid Re-housing Demonstration Completes its First Year: 22 families who experienced homelessness were rapidly re-housed.
Rapid re-housing is a promising intervention designed to quickly connect families and pregnant women temporarily experiencing homelessness to permanent housing and services. Studies show significant gains in long-term success and housing stability when a family is able to quickly leave homeless shelters and get stabilized immediately. Read the story.
October 12, 2017
More than 300 Chronically Homeless People Placed into Permanent Housing
More than 300 chronically homeless people in Philadelphia are now off the streets, out of shelters and into permanent supportive housing. Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS) announced today that the city permanently housed a record 339 chronically homeless individuals during the 12-month period ending August 2017 successfully transitioning nearly one person a day. A chronically homeless person is someone with a disabling condition who has been homeless for a year or more or at multiple times over several years.
The city placed some individuals directly from the street and transitioned others who were already in the homeless services system from shelters, safe havens and residential drug treatment programs. Most – 272 – were initially brought into the system after being engaged by homeless outreach workers at SEPTA’s underground Center City Concourse, Two Penn Center and in Kensington.
The bulk of the remaining 67 people had been engaged outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, in Aviator Park/Logan Square, along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and in Rittenhouse Square while a small group came from 30th Street Station, Society Hill’s Head House Square and South Philadelphia’s Pennsport neighborhood. This geographical breakdown is generally proportional to where most people experiencing street homelessness are living in Philadelphia. Read the story.
October 3, 2017, Curbed Philadelphia, by Melissa Romero
Liz Hersh to head up Mayor Kenney’s new task force to help fight city’s eviction crisis
Mayor Jim Kenney announced that he has put together a 27-person task force to address the city’s eviction crisis.
Show You Care Launched
The Office of Homeless Services launched “Show You Care, But Not Right Here,” a new effort to reduce panhandling and help with homelessness. Instead of giving money to panhandlers and homeless persons you can donate through a text to 80077, type Share and you contribute $5. Donations are matched by the City and the money goes to homeless service providers
Homeless Families Search For Shelter Before School Starts
August 22, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia shelters for homeless familiesare full at a time of year when demand is surging because of the start of the school year.
It’s a yearly problem with no apparent short-term solution.
Homeless Services director Liz Hersh calls it “the August phenomenon.”
“Moms come in because they want to get their children settled before school starts. They want to get an address, which just breaks my heart because what they’re trying to do is have a better life for their children, and they’re doing the only thing they can with the resources they have,” said Hersh.
And Hersh, in turn, does the only thing she can with the resources she has: ask, “do you have nowhere else to go?”
Hersh says with family shelters full, only extreme cases, such as domestic abuse, get priority. Otherwise, they’re encouraged to squeeze in with friends, family, or rooms where perhaps they’re not on a lease.
Hersh says that’s healthier in the long run, because research shows children who’ve been in the shelter system do poorly physically and mentally.
She says the real problem is not emergency shelter but affordable housing. And the city is studying ways to get more families permanently housed.
DNC Homeless Strategy Has Lasting Impact For Some In Phila.
August 1, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Democratic National Convention may have been life-changing for many people, perhaps none more than 35 Philadelphians who were homeless and are now transitioning into housing because of stepped up outreach efforts during the event.
The city spent $86,000 on 20 additional outreach workers and 100 additional shelter beds designated for “respite” during the convention.
Office of Homeless Services director Liz Hersh says the outreach workers had contact with 600 people and 75 used the respite beds, including four couples, two dogs, a cat and a parakeet (and their owners).
Of those, Hersh says, 35 have decided to come off the street:
“We’ve been able to get some people into drug treatment, we’re getting some people into safe havens, which are very supportive, what they call low barrier shelters. We’re getting some people into rapid rehousing.”
She says it’s a larger lesson for the city:
“When we have the dedicated resources and when we have a good strategy, we can help people come in, they start to rest and get fed and clean and cool and safe and they start to be able to think about the future differently.”
The effort included providing information to visitors through hand cards with tips for helping the homeless. Hersh says the city will continue distributing the cards.
City’s DNC Plans Include A Homeless Strategy
July 1, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia will increase the number of outreach workers and shelter beds for homeless people during the Democratic National Convention.
It will also offer tips to visitors on how to help, including suggesting they make donations to a city fund to end homelessness.
Office of Supportive Housing Director Liz Hersh says this is not an effort to hide the city’s homeless population but an extension of a two-month-old strategy of focusing outreach efforts on so-called “hot spots,” with the highest concentrations of unsheltered homeless people.
Those happen also to be the places most visited by tourists: Rittenhouse Square, transit stations, and the Convention Center.
With thousands of visitors expected, Hersh says the city is taking an approach similar to the one that preceded the Pope’s visit.
“We’re letting people who are living on the street know that there will be large crowds, that there will be an increased police presence, secret service presence, that there are areas that will be inaccessible,” she says.
The office expects to spend an additional $86,000 on the effort, which will include 20 additional outreach workers and 100 additional shelter beds.
“We’re surveying them to find out what they would like and we will be offering respite to get in away from the crowds, to be safe, to be cool,” she says.
Hersh says the targeted outreach has already been a success.
“It’s actually exceeded everyone’s expectations,” she says. “We’ve gotten some additional requests to expand the hot spots and prime times. We’ve gotten great feedback from the business and civic associations, that the outreach workers are ambassadors, that it gives them another resource.”
The new outreach strategy has a component aimed not at the homeless but at commuters and residents and that, too, will be beefed up for the Convention.
“They’ll be distributing palm cards that let visitors understand that homelessness in Philadelphia is part of a national phenomenon, that we’re making progress and if they’d like to help, they can contribute to the mayor’s fund to end homelessness,” she says.
She says the additional outreach and services will begin this month and last into August.
Philadelphia Boosts Aid For Homeless During Democratic Convention
July 29, 2016
Part of Philadelphia’s budget for the Democratic National Convention was set aside to help tackle homelessness. The money temporarily paid for more outreach workers and shelter beds.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Philadelphia, host of the Democratic National Convention, spent part of its budget for that event on getting homeless people off the streets. The money paid for more outreach workers and shelter beds, at least temporarily. From member station WHYY in Philadelphia, Aaron Moselle reports.
AARON MOSELLE, BYLINE: Focusing on the week before and the week of the convention, Philadelphia spent more than $60,000 on 110 beds in addition to the several thousand that already exist. Another $25,000 supported 17 additional outreach workers during the same span. For Joseph DeCosmo, those line items were priceless. Last week, he was living on the streets for the first time since losing his job at a pizza place. Now he’s in a shelter after spotting outreach workers one night.
JOSEPH DECOSMO: I was like, let me grab one of them right away. It was like an angel in disguise (laughter).
MOSELLE: Liz Hersh runs the city’s Office of Homeless Services.
LIZ HERSH: In the first 10 days, they made over a thousand contacts with people on the street and were able to get about 15 percent of those into some kind of placement.
MOSELLE: Sister Mary Scullion runs Project HOME. She’s grateful the city provided additional resources. But now what?
MARY SCULLION: I know Project HOME, you know, hopefully will be able to find a way for people to take those next steps forward, but I don’t know that every other organization will have all the tools and resources they need.
MOSELLE: In 2015, the city counted more than 6,000 homeless people. Roughly 700 of them sleep on the streets each night. For NPR News, I’m Aaron Moselle in Philadelphia.
Extra Funding for DNC Helps Philadelphia’s Homeless
July 28, 2016
By Morgan Zalot | NBC10
Liz Hersh, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, talks about the ways extra funding added for more respite beds for people who are homeless is having lasting and life-changing effects on their lives.
The Surprising Way Philly Treats Homeless People During The DNC
July 26, 2016
Eleanor Goldberg, Impact Editor
When the conventions come to town every four years, making life a little more stressful for homeless people has become almost as much of a tradition as draping the city in red, white and blue.
Instead of trying to mask and ignore the problem, as other cities have done in the past, Philadelphia is working to help homeless people actually find places to stay as the city’s accommodations are stretched this week during the Democratic National Convention.
The city allocated $61,000 of its DNC budget to provide an additional 110 beds in shelters, according to Philadelphia Magazine. And, $25,000 will go towards supporting about 20 extra outreach workers.
The city has also partnered with advocates who are well-versed in the issues to help transition homeless people into available shelters, according to ThinkProgress.
This approach stands in stark contrast to past conventions.
In 2012, for example, during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, homeless people were banned entirely from a downtown park where they usually slept and the event site, The Huffington Post reported at the time.
“We had to get our stuff, and then we had to go a mile away or whatever from the facility, the area that was having the convention,” Johnson, 30, told The Huffington Post. “I really didn’t approve of it. We didn’t have nowhere else to go.”
When motel prices skyrocketed in Tampa, and in Charlotte during that year’s DNC, the homeless people who typically relied on such affordable accommodations were also left with nowhere to turn.
Charlotte’s motel prices soared 109 percent during that week, according to the LA Times.
“I work all day for $60,” Eric Jones, who had recently become homeless, told the news outlet. “Why am I going to pay $60 for a room, then I won’t have enough to spend on food or anything.”
Instead of following the lead of other cities, the City of Brotherly Love is taking a cue from its own past major events.
When the Pope visited Philadelphia last year, the city also expanded its outreach teams and often had them work with staff from the Department of Behavioral Health or formerly homeless peer specialists.
“Our hope is this would be a first step,” Laura Weinbaum of Project HOME, a group that works with homeless people, told ThinkProgress. “Even if the reason resources became available is because of the DNC, obviously we want to make hay when the sun shines.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the 2012 Republican National Convention took place in Charlotte. The Democratic National Convention took place there that year.
Under DNC glare, agency puts focus on the homeless
July 26, 2016
With thousands of visitors in the city for the Democratic National Convention, Project HOME does not want anyone to forget about the homeless or those who are living in poverty.
“People are experiencing homelessness in every city or rural community,” said Sister Mary Scullion, the co-founder and executive director of Project HOME. “Across our nation it’s very, very important that our elected officials see, understand and feel the pain and suffering of those who are struggling for survival every day.”
Project HOME (Housing Opportunities Medical Education) will offer personal accounts and hold discussions on that and other topics at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Parkway Branch of the Free Library, 1901 Vine St.
The organization, which strives to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, chose to have the event during the DNC to put a human face to poverty and homelessness. To the effort, attendees will hear stories from the homeless and from those who have fallen into economic disparity.
“We think it’s important to provide an opportunity for our elected officials and leaders to meet and to hear the stories, the struggles, the hopes and the dreams of people who are experiencing homelessness or who are very low income,” Scullion said. “Too often we’re segregated in society by income.”
In Philadelphia, at any given time, there are an estimated 650 people living on the streets, with approximately half of them taking up residence in Center City, according to Project HOME. For shelter, some of them sleep underneath the underpass of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Arch Street. Furthermore, the city has a 26.3 poverty rate, from facts provided by a PEW 2015 report titled “State of the City.”
In May, Mayor Jim Kenney announced a new homeless outreach strategy targeting Center City. Earlier this month, his administration lifted a 3-year-old ban on feeding the homeless in city parks, though a federal injunction had the rule in limbo during most of former Mayor Michael Nutter’s second term.
The Office of Supportive Housing is on the ground at four hot spots or high volume areas for the homeless, providing outreach daily from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The outreach team consist of social workers, mental health counselors, addiction specialists and those who were previously homeless.
The teams assess individuals and families to provide them with immediate options to transition into emergency housing, in addition to connecting them to appropriate social services.
“Mayor Kenney has worked with our outreach team to intensify the outreach efforts that we are already doing,” O’Brien said. “[Kenney] has stated that they are in no way trying to disguise the folks who are homeless. We want to provide an understanding that it could happen to anyone and for a variety of reasons.”
Liz Hersh, the director of the OSH, says during the DNC the priority of her agency is to make sure the homeless are housed, not hidden.
“I want to reassert the mayor’s position that homelessness will not be criminalized and that Philadelphia is a city for all,” Hersh said in an emailed statement to the Tribune on Friday. “We are not ‘sweeping the streets’ to hide homeless people. Our goal is to use the opportunity presented by the DNC to help more people get the services and housing they need to address their homelessness.”
Homelessness and poverty could stem from several things including lack of jobs, a scarcity of affordable transportation or housing, lack of affordable health care, domestic violence or inadequate support for mental health and for those who suffer from substance abuse challenges, Project HOME said.
“We really do hope that some of the delegates will take time from their social events and parties to really come and make some human contact and hear stories from people who are not really all that different from they are,” O’Brien said. “They are fellow Americans who are in need of some support right now.”
Homelessness should be part of the conversation for the next presidential administration, O’Brien said.
“For us, when we talk about homelessness and poverty we’re talking about millions,” O’Brien said. “It’s destructive if that many people are left our of the question and talking about the kind of the vision of the country we want to be.”
Added Scullion, “It’s important to raise the issues of poverty and homelessness while both the Republicans and Democrats are establishing their platforms and their issues. Poverty and homelessness are often left off the agenda. Hopefully people will be moved to action of the plight of those who are struggling in our society.”
The homeless outreach hotline is (215) 232-1984.
Most Cities Evict Their Homeless Before Big Events. Philly Is Trying Something New.
July 25, 2016
This week, tens of thousands of people will converge on Philadelphia to attend the Democratic National Convention. They’ll swarm a city that is home to roughly 670 people currently living without shelter.
In other cities, the potential clash between swelling crowds on the streets and people who may call those streets home has been handled by simply pushing the homeless aside. When San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl in February, it relocated homeless people from particular areas, with some homeless people reporting that their belongings were confiscated, and while it said it would give them slots at a shelter, the shelter already had a huge waiting list. When the Pope came to visit New York City, the city swept nearby homeless encampments and threatened to ticket and arrest anyone who didn’t leave.
Before hosting the Republican National Convention last week, Cleveland, Ohio enacted new restrictions that effectively criminalized being homeless near the convention center. The ACLU successfully challenged the rules on behalf of a homeless advocacy group.
Philadelphia, however, is taking a very different approach.
Rather than rely on crackdowns and arrests, the city has spent recent weeks ramping up outreach efforts and offering resources to open up 110 new beds for any homeless people who want to come inside during the chaos of the convention.
The city is partnering with advocates who already work with people on the street. “We’ve been working really closely with the city…to make sure that people are treated humanely and safely,” said Laura Weinbaum of Project HOME, an organization that coordinates outreach to Philadelphia’s homeless.
This more compassionate approach worked well the last time Philadelphia used it, when the Pope visited it on his trip through the United States. The city implemented the same plan for that visit as the one it will use for the DNC. Outreach teams were expanded and often paired with staff from the Department of Behavioral Health or certified formerly homeless peer specialists.
“It was pretty effective,” Weinbaum said. “The time the Pope was here was a pretty major event and pretty stressful and disruptive time for people, but as far as we know there were no involuntary commitments” to shelters.
That experience may set the city up for success this time as well, even if the DNC brings more challenges because it’s unclear which areas will be off limits or overly crowded. “I think we have a fairly good system in place,” she said. “The practice made this a little bit easier.”
And while the extra resources the city is offering are temporary and spurred by a special event, Weinbaum still sees it as a positive step toward helping the homeless community. Many people who go without shelter may find it difficult to make a long-term commitment to coming inside, so being able to do so in a more limited way can ease the transition. “What we have found often with these short-term interventions is they do encourage people to come in in a different way,” she said. “Once people are into the system, if they are interested in the next step and the next step and the next step hopefully that will be made available to them.”
“Our hope is this would be a first step,” she said. “Even if the reason resources became available is because of the DNC, obviously we want to make hay when the sun shines.”
CBS Philly article:
November 6, 2017
WHYY, Tom McDonald
New daytime home for Philadelphians without a place to live opening in January
Proceeds from a Monday morning fundraiser will help finance the project for helping homeless people move into shelters, transitional housing and jobs. It generated $850,000. Read the story
Hope from below: Inside plans to turn a SEPTA train hub into a haven for homeless
Suburban Station is Joyce’s go-to spot. It’s well-lit, relatively safe with its police monitoring, and, as she affirms, has more space than most city shelters. Read her story.
October 23, 2017
Homeless center is Philly’s humane response to a human crisis
Philadelphia has long tried to find temporary shelter and permanent housing for those unable to find it for themselves. Because of that commitment by charitable and governmental agencies, it is ahead of most large cities in meeting the homeless’ needs.
In January, the city will embark on a new phase by opening a homeless service center in an unused corridor of the commuter tunnel near Broad and Arch Streets. The underground facility will provide some of the basic amenities of a home: bathrooms, food, showers, and a place to hang out daily, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., where they are treated with respect. Read the story
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic – How the Opioid Crisis Affects Homeless Populations
National Health Care for the Homeless Council – Fact Sheet | August 2017
America is facing an opioid epidemic that has reached nationally recognized crisis levels. Currently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites that 142 Americans die from opioid overdose every day. Since 2000, deaths due to drug overdose in general have been steadily increasing. Read the Fact Sheet
Hank’s Take: Down and out on Market Street
Fox29 Hank Flynn August 31, 2017
Philadelphia’s homeless numbers are on the rise, thanks to opioid abuse …. Read the story
August 23, 2017
Headhouse district contends with surge in panhandlers, homeless
“Every Sunday from the spring until the fall, Philadelphia’s historic Headhouse Shambles is transformed into a busy farmers market for visitors and residents of the district. But the outdoor colonnade has also become a popular space for homeless people in the city to relax and shelter from the elements.” Read the full Newsworks article.
May 3, 2017
Health and Human Services Report “Together We Thrive” Released
PHILADELPHIA —Deputy Managing Director for Health and Human Services, Eva Gladstein released the Cabinet’s plan, Together We Thrive. Mayor Jim Kenney created the Health and Human Services Cabinet in 2016, bringing together five agencies responsible for serving the most vulnerable individuals in Philadelphia. The agencies include the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO). the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Office of Homeless Services (OHS).
“This plan was created to articulate our shared goals across the Cabinet, connect current and potential community partners with our strategies, provide the tools needed to effectively contribute, share information and understand what works and what doesn’t” said Gladstein.
HHS Cabinet’s mission is to foster the health and well-being of Philadelphians from a healthy start to a safe and supported future. Together We Thrive looks at the state of the city regarding poverty, housing, addiction and behavioral health and family stability and childhood trauma. It provides background, strategies and action steps to ensure people are healthy, safe and supported.
Over the next three years, we will be focused on three primary goals:
- Providing a healthy environment and high-quality physical and behavioral health care.
- Keeping Philadelphians safe and secure in their homes and communities.
- Ensuring the most vulnerable residents are able to stabilize their lives and that individuals and communities support each other.
The plan also outlines the Cabinet’s strategies for 2017. Sampling of the strategies includes::
- Preventing developmental delays in at-risk children ages 0-5.
- Reducing incidences of lead poisoning and asthma.
- Expanding behavioral health supports for youth.
- Providing supports to prevent evictions and homelessness.
- Expanding housing services for young adults, particularly youth aging out of foster care.
- Reducing domestic violence and human trafficking.
- “To achieve these goals, we look forward to collaborating with City Council and other elected officials, the business community, philanthropy, academic and other anchor institutions, community-based organizations, and city residents said Gladstein.”
The full report can be viewed online at www.Phila.gov/hhs.
April 26, 2017
Article on Sanctuary Cities in the New York Times
April 21 2017
100 Days Street Homeless Challenge
Philadelphia was the first City to utilize the Rapid Results Institute’s 100 Day model to create a team focused on youth homelessness. The Office of Homeless Services held a 100 Day Street Homeless Challenge in June, 2016, before the 100 Day/A Way Home America cities began their work.
Following a Philadelphia City Council hearing and powerful testimony by young people with lived experience of homelessness and youth service providers and advocates, City Council made a funding commitment of $500,000 to increase housing and services for young adults in spring, 2016. The Office of Homeless Services contributed an additional $200,000.
The Legal Intelligencer posted an article on Recommendations to End Youth Homelessness.
“In the last few years Philadelphia has seen an increase in the numbers of homeless youth. We aren’t alone—this increase is happening in cities nationwide. According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) report, 5,764 children and youth were counted as homeless in Philadelphia during the 2014-2015 school year.”
April 19, 2017
Human Trafficking Among Homeless Youth
The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania joined forces with Covenant House, an agency dedicated to helping homeless youth, and Loyola University’s Modern Slavery Research Project to conduct a first-of-its-kind study on the prevalence of human trafficking among homeless youth. The Field Center will unveil its complete research findings during a 90-minute presentation at the “One Child, Many Hands” national child-welfare conference June 8 at 1:45 p.m. at Penn Law, 3501 Sansom St.
March 3, 2017
March 2, 2017
February 21, 2017
February 17, 2017
February 14, 2017
February 13, 2017
January 26, 2017
January 19, 2017
From the Publications page
A Unique and Effective Multiyear Partnership to Expand Permanent Supportive Housing
By Marcella Maguire, Director of Health Systems Integration, CSH
“The Philadelphia Blueprint Project is a historic partnership among the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHIDS), the Office of Homeless Services, and the Housing Authority that aligns resources between affordable housing and Medicaid Supportive Services to create a unique and effective Supportive Housing Program that has housed 1,200 people since 2008. The Blueprint program has had an 87 percent success rate in preventing a return to homelessness for men and women who have serious mental illness, substance use disorders, and/or concurrent disorders and who have had long-term or chronic homelessness. The multi-year agreement between the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), known as the Blueprint, provides for a portion of affordable housing resources to be targeted to the community’s most vulnerable population—those sleeping on our streets—and combine them with services, creating a homegrown Permanent Supportive Housing program.” Read the Report
CLS Releases Two Studies:
Converting Medicaid, SNAP, and SSI to Block Grants Would Harm Pennsylvania Families
“The block grant funding remains unchanged over time, or increases are capped at low, fixed rates. In 1996, Congress converted cash assistance for the neediest families to . . .TANF block grant. The results have been disastrous for Pennsylvania families. . . . .” Read the Report. (January 2017)
Pennsylvania’s Medicaid Program Is a Vital Tool in Fighting the Opioid Crisis
“Medicaid provides critically important health care to Pennsylvanians who need substance use treatment. Yet Congress is considering cuts to Medicaid that would reverse the progress that Pennsylvania has made in addressing the opioid crisis.” Read the Report. (January 2017)
Living With HIV – Study Released
January 23, 2017
From the Report:
“In 2001, Culhane found that among people living with AIDS in Philadelphia, 9% had been admitted to a shelter in the three years prior to the study, a rate that was triple that of the general population for the same time-period. In another section of this current study, Metraux finds that between 2007 and 2014, 6.9% of people with AIDS in Philadelphia had at least one shelter stay, a rate that is more than double that of the general population. These results indicate that people living with HIV (PWH) are at considerable risk of experiencing homelessness. This report presents the results of a qualitative study examining the housing related challenges confronting PWH in Philadelphia, and the manner in which The Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA), a federal housing program for low-income people living with AIDS, is addressing these challenges.”
Outreach Survey, Executive Summary, DBHIDS, TIP Unit
This Report provides a summary of the outreach surveys administered between October 3, 2016 and October 14, 2016.
The purpose of this survey was for outreach to be able to engage with and discover the current living environment, needs, and housing plans for individuals that may be experiencing street homelessness, with a focus on those seen in areas around Rittenhouse Square, Aviator Park
and Two Penn Center.
From the Reports page
Homeless Services Director’s Report February 16, 2017
Click on the image below to download the report.
Report from the Director
November 2, 2016
As promised here are the results of the survey of people living on the streets in Aviator/Logan Circle, 2 Penn Centre and Rittenhouse Square.
Summer 2016, Homeless Services Activity, Executive Summary, DBHIDS, TIP Unit
This Report provides a summary of the outreach efforts between May 1, 2016 and September 30, 2016. It details outreach efforts during the week of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, response calls, the findings of the outreach surveys administered in preparation for the DNC, the newly added outreach business log books, and results of the quarterly PIT Count. Finally, this report provides an analysis of data regarding safe havens and Journey of Hope programs.
K Counts (End Homelessness in Kensington)
June 16, 2016
Kensington Homelessness Task Force facilitated Kensington Counts, an event in Kensington to count and survey individuals experiencing homelessness as well as connect them to vital resources and services.
A total of four drop-in locations opened for the event from 7pm to 11pm: Catholic Worker, Prevention Point, Mother of Mercy House, and St. Mark’s Church. In addition to these drop-in locations, five cars went out from 7pm to 11pm to conduct surveys and outreach with individuals unable or unwilling to go to drop-ins and Prevention Point’s medical van was stationed at an entrance to the tent city near the Conrail tracks.
All drop-ins and street teams provided food, toiletry kits, and socks. Additionally, basic medical care was available at three locations: Catholic Worker, Prevention Point, and the tent city tracks.
Click on the report at left for all the data.
100-Day Street Homelessness Challenge
The Street Homelessness Challenge is a proven, structured planning and action process “choreographed” by Rapid Results Institute. It focuses on three distinct groups of people living on the streets of Philadelphia: Youth, Chronically Homeless and Newly Homeless. Three Community teams were established supported by a Leadership Team. One year later, read the update on the 100-Day Street Homelessness Challenge – from Liz Hersh.
Community Teams Progress Reports
July 11, 2016
Below you will find links to each teams report. Click on an image to download.
October 6, 2016
Read our 100 Day Review
From Success Stories
Homeless Services Launches a New Initiative!
The Landlord Partnership Initiative was launched on May 2nd. We are really excited about the potential of this partnership to create housing opportunities for those who are exiting homelessness. The Participants were enthusiastic, with one housing provider saying, “This program is way under-promoted!” More information can be found here.
Outley House Success Story
Robert Taylor was referred to Outley House Men’s Shelter in November 2016. It was his first shelter experience, which he attributed to a lack of income and inadequate employment. When he was admitted, Mr. Taylor was adamant about turning his situation around and regaining self-sufficiency. He made good use of all the resources provided during his shelter stay, and eventually began a rigorous vocational program at the AAA School of Trucking to obtain his Commercial Driving License.
Once he completed the program, Mr. Taylor took advantage of a great job placement opportunity and landed a full-time position in Atlanta. He will be “navigating the open road” as a Cross Country Truck driver. The icing on the cake is that the company who hired him paid for his moving expenses!
We wish Mr. Taylor success as he continues to thrive. His story inspires all of us.