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

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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

Waiting for Hub of Hope

Philadehia Inquirer/Daily News/
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

May 2017

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:|Text|&Search=160988

By: Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

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

For more information on the Eviction Crisis from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, please visit

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  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

one step away vendors

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

cls logo

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

Important information from USICH on:
  • 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-700k-2 youth-700k-1

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.
donald jackson
Donald Jackson

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.