December 18, 2018

‘Your story doesn’t end here’: New project aims to give hope to Philly’s homeless. Information and inspirational messages

A new awareness campaign in Center City aims to bring information on shelter and food, as well as a message of hope to Philadelphians without a home this winter.

December 18, 2018

Campaign targets homeless, seeks public’s help

Associated Press/Philadelphia Tribune

With panhandling and homelessness ramping up on the sidewalks of Center City, a homeless advocacy group and a business improvement district have teamed up in an outreach effort and are asking the public to get involved.

Paul Kurtz/KYW News Radio
LaToya Singleton is one of five formerly homeless people who are about to become Philly famous.Their photos and messages of hope will appear in ads posted on 70 transit shelters

 throughout Center City, as part of Project HOME and Center City District’s new homeless outreach campaign.

December 18, 2018

Philly and Project HOME announce new awareness campaign for homelessness

Alfred Lubano/The Inquirer
“As we know, it’s really cold outside,” said Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME, a nonprofit that aids the homeless. “And today, new people will end up on our streets. How can we best communicate to them where they can get shelter and a meal?”

The answers, she said, were the 70 bus-shelter (also called transit-shelter) ads — 50 digital, 20 print — that are being placed throughout Center City this week. In the ads, five people who were once homeless impart the message to those who currently are living rough: “Your story doesn’t end here. I know because mine didn’t.”

November 1, 2018

Pulling back the curtain on trauma faced by Philadelphia’s homeless youth

  Curbed Philadelphia
By Anna Merriman

City plans massive Kensington Avenue clean up project

By Grace Shallow / CONTRIBUTOR

This innovative intake system model aims to shorten wait times for social services

“Shortened wait times is one of many goals of centralized intake systems (we’ll call them “c-intake systems” here), which hinge on collaboration between providers.

In Philadelphia, the homeless services, home visiting and legal sectors are all currently developing ways to bring this method to their clients.”

  Josh Kruger,  Office of the Mayor 

The Philadelphia Resilience Project: Our response to the opioid crisis

“On October 3, 2018, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Executive Order 3-18 declaring a citywide emergency and empowering City agencies to come together to immediately solve the problem.”

“What the Resilience Project does

It focuses on seven critical mission areas:

  • Clearing major encampments.
  • Reducing criminal activity.
  • Reducing the number of unsheltered individuals.
  • Reducing trash and litter.
  • Reducing overdoses and the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Increasing treatment options.
  • Mobilizing community response.”

Read the article

September 19, 2018

Philadelphia’s Kensington ‘under siege’ as opioid-linked homelessness soars

By Aubrey Whelan, The Inquirer

When Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services finalized the latest tally of Kensington’s homeless population this month, what it found was stunning: the number of people living on the drug-plagued community’s streets has more than doubled. The latest number — 703, up from 271 a year ago — caused “borderline hysteria” in the office, said its director, Liz Hersh. Read the article.

July 21, 2018

Home4Good RFP

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh (FHLB Pittsburgh) has announced a new funding opportunity for Homeless Service Providers throughout Pennsylvania in a collaborative effort with the Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency (PHFA). The $4.5 Million initiative, labeled “Home4Good”, will provide much needed funding to projects, programs, or activities that focus on the following goals:
1. Prevent homelessness: Assist households at risk for homelessness by maintaining their current housing or divert them to alternative, safe options
2. Solicit innovative solutions to end homelessness
3. Address critical needs throughout the Commonwealth: Projects, programs, or activities determined to be critically needed by the Philadelphia CoC

The highlight of this grant is that the eligible uses for the funding are very flexible. This will allow for organizations to fill gaps in assistance needs that other funding sources can’t cover. Please find all the eligible activities one can apply for in the RFP. The grant award is based on population. It is anticipated the Philadelphia CoC will be awarded between $700,00 to $1.5 Million.

To be considered for funding in Philadelphia, a homeless service organization must submit a proposal to the City of Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, the Collaborative Applicant for the Philadelphia Continuum of Care (CoC), no later than 3pm, Philadelphia, PA, local time on Friday, August 24, 2018. Submissions will be accepted via email to

Applicants are to use the Home4Good RFP format for their submission. The Philadelphia CoC will review the project proposal submissions and rank them accordingly based on strength of the proposal and the extent to which they address needs in the community. The CoC will submit a packet of ranked proposals to PHFA and FHLB Pittsburgh for review no later than September 28th.

Home4Good Awards will be announced on December 17th.

Based on the CoC’s most recent needs assessment and understanding of system-wide needs, the following have been identified as priorities to fill housing and service gaps in Philadelphia’s homeless assistance system:
1. Assistance at various parts of the homeless assistance system to divert people from emergency shelter, the street, or places not meant for human habitation, including:

  • people facing eviction
  • people in emergency and temporary housing program who need financial support to pay rental and utility arrears or security deposits to transition to permanent housing
  • people re-entering the community from the criminal justice system
  • people with complex medical problems
  • Youth exiting child welfare care without stable housing

2. Programs to serve the unique circumstances and needs of youth experiencing homelessness
3. Coordinated Entry infrastructure to expand and support access to the Coordinate Entry system (youth access, mobile assessors, etc)
4. Rehabilitation / Renovation of affordable housing units

However, this should not limit the ideas you submit. Be creative!

For more information  please visit:
To access the Home4Good RFP, frequently asked questions and powerpoint presentation, please visit

Cover of From Homeless to Housed - OHS 2017 Annual Report

July 2018

Office of Homeless Services Annual Report
From Homeless to Housed

Our first ever Annual Report is out!

“This report is for all of our stakeholders. You are a stakeholder if the quality of our performance in the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) can make positive things happen for you, your organization, or community” – Liz Hersh, Director

You may download the 2017 Annual Report as an Acrobat PDF file or click on the heading above to view it as an e-book.

July 18, 2018

Medical respite for homeless now open in North Philly

By Aaron Moselle, WHYY

Serenity Court Calcutta House opening
Photo by Emma lee, WHYY

Ronald Lane beamed Tuesday morning as he sat on a lime green couch inside Serenity Court, the first – and only – medical respite in the city for homeless patients recovering after a stint in the hospital.

It may be hard for him to walk. His legs and feet may be tightly wrapped in gauze. It may be awhile before any of that changes. But, Lane knows it could be worse. He could be on the street or in a homeless shelter trying to care for his wounds, sustained this winter after a nasty bout of frostbite. Read the article on Serenity Court opening.

June 26, 2018

Task force wants mediation to prevent evictions in Philadelphia

Philadelphia has a game plan for cutting down on the number of people evicted from their homes or apartments. The eviction rate is high in the city, partly because only about a third of those who need subsidized housing can get into an affordable apartment or home. The goal is to pare the annual rate of 24,000 evictions. . . Read the article.

June 17, 2018

Maryann Styles and Delores Liggins are helping Philadelphia’s as temps soar into the 90s. (Credit: CBS3)
Maryann Styles and Delores Liggins are helping Philadelphia’s as temps soar into the 90s. (Credit: CBS3)

Homeless Advocates Helping Philly’s Most Vulnerable As Temps Soar Into 90s

By Greg Argos, CBS News

As summer officially gets underway on June 21, some Philadelphia residents are doing what they can to help the city’s homeless as the mercury continues to rise. City homeless outreach advocates Maryann Styles and Delores Liggins are doing what they can to help. Read the article

June 1, 2018

Deadline to Vacate

By The Philadelphia Tribune

Dump trucks. Sanitation crews. Social service providers. Storage bins. Police and emergency personnel. That was the scene at the Kensington Avenue and Tulip Street heroin encampments Wednesday. Within the span of a few hours, the inhabitants of the encampments were gone; the sidewalks cleaned and sanitized. Read the article.

June 1, 2018

Philly deserves credit for clearing out heroin encampments, offering help | Editorial

By the Inquirer Editorial Board

. . . Obviously, as society evolved and advanced, responses to crises have, too.  The city’s current response to the opioid crisis is a good example.

On Wednesday, the city cleared out two encampments in Kensington where hundreds of addicted people lived (and many died).  That cleanup was important to the  neighborhood that has been the hardest-hit during this crisis.  The city’s action isn’t just about banishing  a troubled population, but corralling people with problems to get access to housing, treatment, and other support. Read the article.

May 29, 2018

Philadelphia clears its heroin camps this week. This housing program could be a keyPathways to Housing resident

By Aubrey Whelan, The Inquirer

As the city prepares to clear out two of Kensington’s heroin encampments by its Wednesday deadline, advocates for those in addiction, neighbors, and city officials agree on one thing: The camp’s residents will need permanent homes.

Temporary space for some has been found in an expanding network of shelter beds in the neighborhood. But a housing program unlike any other in the country could provide a road map for getting to a more lasting solution.

Pathways to Housing’s housing-first program — meaning you don’t have to be sober to get a home — for people with opioid addiction has been slowly getting people off the streets of Kensington for over a year.

Mayor Kenney’s budget seeks 60 more slots in a program that other cities struggling with the dual crises of opioid addiction and homelessness are looking to for inspiration. A year into the program, 54 percent of Pathways’ 75 participants are in treatment or abstaining from drug use. Nearly everyone who entered the program has stayed. Read more . . .

May 17, 2018

With Conrail cleanup in rear view, Philly clearing new Kensington heroin camps

By Joel Wolfram, WHYY

On a recent Friday morning, a young man named John was sitting on a street corner down the block from a railroad bridge where people pitch tents along busy Kensington Avenue. He had a weary look on his face, a red gash on his forehead, and a harrowing story to tell. “Some dude in a truck hit me in my tent,” John said. Read the article.

May 12, 2018

People living in Kensington’s encampments are wary of the city’s plan to clear out their home.
“Where’s everybody going to go?”Prevention Point intake during 30 days

By Courtney Harris Bond, Billy Penn

At the end of April, the City of Philadelphia announced it was launching a new effort to clean up the encampments in Kensington where many drug users make their homes. The plan includes outreach to those affected, but many users living under the Tulip Street bridge said on a recent afternoon that they had not noticed the orange signs screwed into the sturdy posts of the El. . . .

According to the city, the effort to clear the encampments  —  first the ones on Kensington Avenue under the El and under the Tulip Street bridge  —  is the result of careful planning in conjunction with housing and treatment experts, and is intended to strengthen Philadelphia’s response to the opioid crisis.. . .

“This is a unique approach that brings a suite of services to the individuals living under the bridges,” said Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Homeless Services. “We’re giving them the opportunity to get off the street and get the help they need by addressing many of the barriers that are usually a deterrent to getting services like the lack of I.D.s, lack of transportation and guaranteeing immediate access to treatment  —  but the clock is ticking.”

Read the article.

May 3, 2018

Philly Unveils a Plan to Deal with the Eviction Crisis

By Jared Brey, Next City

Last year in Philadelphia, after hearing from tenants who struggled with unresponsive landlords, substandard housing, and keeping up with rent, the city council secured $500,000 for eviction prevention measures and additional legal aid for tenants. In September, Mayor Jim Kenney appointed a “Task Force on Eviction Prevention and Response,” filled with planning officials, researchers, lawyers, landlords, and tenant advocates, to study the issue. The group released a draft report, outlining 17 recommendations, this month. Read the article.

April 27, 2018

Serenity Court: PHMC’s New Homeless Medical RespiteSerenity court

Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) announces the opening of Serenity Court, the city’s newest Homeless Medical Respite program.  Building on the success of a pilot program opened by PHMC and Depaul USA in 2014, Serenity Court will house 20 adults and expand services to women and those with mobility issues.

This program is a national best practice to address the transition of homeless individu­als from hospitals back into the community and to combat the additional chal­lenges homeless individuals face after a hospital stay. Without a safe and stable place to recover from illness, injury or surgery, patients may be forced to over utilize emergency rooms.  Dis­charge to the streets or shelters can result in poor health outcomes for patients. Respite gives a place to recuperate in a safe environment while getting needed medical care and supportive services.

The program is overseen by the Respite Nurse Manager Gina M. Gentile, BSN, RN, who is supported by Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners from the Mary Howard Health Center. Together, this team manages all health services, connects to recommended follow-up care, assists respite patients to follow treatment regimens, and coordinates with patients’ existing support teams to ensure the best possible discharge outcome.  The program is also supported by 24/7 Certified Nursing Assistant staffing, a Case Manager, Food Services staff, and Custodial/Maintenance staff.

Referrals are accepted from contracted hospitals.  Others will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Intake criteria include:

  1. Patient has a post-acute medical condition that can be effectively addressed within a limited amount of time.
  2. Patient is too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the street or in a shelter but is not ill enough to be in a hospital.
  3. Patient is currently homeless.
  4. Patient is independent in all activities of daily living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs).
  5. Patient is able to ambulate and transfer independently with or without use of assistive devices.
  6. Patient is continent of bowel and bladder.
  7. Patient is not acutely intoxicated and is not likely to experience significant alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms.
  8. Patient is willing to comply with the rules and guidelines of the PHMC Medical Respite Care Facility.
  9. Patient is over the age of eighteen.
  10. Patient is an unaccompanied adult.

Referrals can be made on Monday to Friday from 7am to 3pm at (215) 817-9864 or

Serenity Court Homeless Medical Respite Program
1221 N. 19th St., Philadelphia, PA 19121
(215) 684-3430

An open house is expected later this spring.

 The PHMC Health Care for the Homeless Program provides affordable, high-quality, patient-centered care for those at-risk of becoming homeless and homeless men, women and children in order to eradicate homelessness in the city. The program is managed by Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), a nonprofit public health institute.

March 14, 2018

Over 1,000 adults were homeless and unsheltered in Philadelphia this January

Results of the 2018 point-in-time count were released this week and found a 10 percent increase in people living on the streets from the previous year. Read the story.
by Julie Zeglen, Generocity

March 12, 2018

Results From City’s Annual Homeless Count Are In: Growth Rate of Street Homelessness Down; Number of Homeless Adults Living on the Street Up

The Office of Homeless Services (OHS) today released the results of Philadelphia’s 2018 annual overnight count of adults experiencing homelessness and living on the street. Results from the count, conducted in January, show that the rapid rate of growth of street homelessness in Philadelphia has slowed to 10% after spiking to 32% the year before – and that the total number of unsheltered individuals has increased from 930 to 1,020 primarily as a result of the opioid epidemic.

“We are moving in the right direction,” said OHS Director Liz Hersh. “We have slowed the train down. It shows that what we are doing is working – we just need to keep it up and expand. The Mayor has proposed additional support for housing first strategies so we anticipate additional progress over the coming year.”

Hersh said the city’s ability to disrupt and significantly reduce the street homelessness growth rate is due largely to its implementation of homeless intervention programs that take a housing first approach. Combatting homelessness with this strategy allows OHS to focus first on getting people housed, without preconditions, and then on working collaboratively to connect them to vital social services, substance use disorder treatment, mental health care, medical needs and other supports to address the underlying issues often leading to or exacerbating homelessness.

Indeed, housing first is paying off for Philadelphia. A low-barrier homeless respite center OHS opened last year in Kensington at Prevention Point Philadelphia, for example, has helped 160 people – 40% of whom entered housing and/or addiction treatment, a notable success rate in the city’s most opioid-distressed community.

“The success of this low-barrier respite shows us that when we meet people where they are and provide them with what they need, they respond,” said Hersh. “We are finding that making it easy for people to just come in, get regular meals, sleep and care in a safe environment enables and encourages them to start working on the other issues in their lives. We all need housing first.”

OHS also expanded the Pathways to Housing PA fidelity “housing first” model from 60-75 units, which has so far achieved a remarkable 100% retention rate with 51 percent of participants entering drug treatment or otherwise abstaining from drug use. And over a record 18-month period, OHS’s 100-day Chronic Homelessness Team successfully housed 440 people who had been chronically homeless in Philadelphia.

The results from this year’s count also show that the opioid crisis, which claimed an estimated 1,200 lives in Philadelphia last year, continues to drive street homelessness in the city. Kensington and Center City continue to have the largest concentrations of people living on the street although street homelessness is down in both areas by seven percent and 14 percent respectively while the number of homeless people counted at SEPTA’s underground concourse in Center City is down by 24 this year.

The largest increase in street homelessness was found at 30th Street station where there were an additional 92 people counted. OHS attributes this increase to the nightly closing of the 69th Street Terminal, which causes people to relocate to the closest transportation center. The Airport also saw an increase of 15 people over last year. Additionally, 20 more people were counted as being street homeless in the Northern Liberties/Fishtown section of Philadelphia, OHS officials said, because of the construction along I-95.

The purpose of the annual homeless count is to estimate and track the size of the homeless population in Philadelphia, identify trends and vulnerable groups and gain greater insight into homelessness. Results inform local and federal policy and the allocation of resources to combat homelessness from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Philadelphia’s adult count is coordinated and executed by the Office of Homeless Services, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Project HOME and the Veterans Administration Medical Center. It is conducted by about 400 trained volunteers who span out across the city canvassing areas in every zip code, taking a digital count of people experiencing homelessness and surveying those who will talk. This year, the City invested in people with lived experience helping with the count.

A separate youth-specific count is coordinated and executed by the Office of Homeless Service and Valley Youth House. The results of the youth-specific count from 2017 and 2018 will be released at a later date. With the adoption of the Voices of Youth Count methodology, which includes youth with lived experience conducting surveys, Philadelphia is becoming increasingly aware of this largely hidden population and their individualized needs and therefore tracks them separately.

March 2, 2018

In Kensington, hundreds homeless and only 40 shelter beds

City shelter
Photo by Sydney Schaefer

“Robert Fifer has no doubt what would have happened if he’d stayed on the street this winter. I would have froze to death,” he said matter-of-factly last week. …when the recent weeks of frigid temperatures hit, he got a bed at a shelter in a converted thrift store on Kensington Avenue. He knows how fortunate he is. In an opioid-ravaged Philadelphia neighborhood where hundreds sleep outside under bridges and in doorways, he has one of the only 40 shelter beds for people like him. … Run by the needle-exchange program Prevention Point, the shelter has taken in 160 people and ushered five dozen of them into treatment in the year it’s been open.” Read the article.
by Aubrey Whelan, The Inquirer

February 23,2018

Philadelphia nonprofits form health-care partnership for homeless

Health Partners Plans, Philadelphia Fight, and Broad Street Ministry announced a collaboration to help improve health care for homeless individuals.
by Harold Brubaker, The Inquirer

January 30, 2018

Get a first look at Suburban Station’s new homeless services center

“Starting Wednesday, they (homeless) will be offered a safe place in an unlikely space: deep in the tunnels of Suburban Station, where Project HOME, SEPTA, and city government have cooperated to build a daytime service center designed to help the city’s homeless. Hub of Hope, as the 11,000-square-foot facility is named, brings meals, medical care, social services, and basic amenities such as bathrooms, showers, and laundry machines to Center City, where a large portion of the city’s homeless spend the day, but such services are scarce.”
by Jason Laughlin, The Inquirer

January 23, 2018

4 ways Philly is fighting the opioid epidemic in Fairhill and Kensington

  • Warming Centers
  • Allowed encampents, with trash bags
  • Recovery housing
  • Safe-injection site?

January 12, 2018

This staffing company aims to employ 1,000 homeless individuals in 3 years

The Atlanta-based, mission-focused First Step Staffing is expanding to Philly. First Step specializes in warehouse, packaging and manufacturing jobs and will be based locally in Kensington. The nonprofit will work with local homelessness agencies such as Project HOME, Broad Street Ministry and Impact Services to connect with potential employees, who will also be offered job coaching and transportation.

January 9, 2018

Philadelphia’s outreach workers combed the streets to make sure no homeless person died during the bitter cold.Outreach during winter in encampments

“These are dangerous conditions,” said Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Homeless Services. Some of the homeless people who came inside during the Code Blue will return to the streets, but for some this may be an opportunity to get help. If you see someone out in the cold, please call the Outreach Hotline at 215-232-1984. You can also tweet @phlcityhomeless.

Read the news stories:

January 10, 2018

From Phillymag:
How (And Why) Philly Forced 16 People Off the Streets During the Deep Freeze

In extreme temperatures, getting to shelter means life or death for Philly’s homeless. Still, some people refuse to leave the cold. Should the city keep forcing them?
by Claire Sasko  3:42 p.m

Read the article