Read some of the coverage in the press about the Office of Homeless Services and our efforts to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring for the City of Philadelphia..

June 27, 2018

Article on the new program called: Rapid Re-housing for Reunificiation

Philly offers affordable housing to help parents regain custody of kids in foster care

By Nina Feldman, WHYY

In Philadelphia, not having a safe, stable place to live prevents parents whose children have been placed in foster care from regaining custody 40 percent of the time — 10 percent higher than the national average — according to a recent study by the city.

That’s why Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services and Office of Homeless Services have partnered on a new program that gives priority for affordable housing to people whose kids are in the custody of child welfare.

The program is aimed at people who are on track to be reunified with their children in the next six months, and for whom housing instability is a factor in preventing that. Read/listen to the article.

May 29, 2018

Deadline looms for clearing Kensington encampments: ‘I really have nowhere to go’

“I do want to get clean and I do want to get help but, you know, it’s really tough.”

By Pat Loeb KYW 1060 Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A pilot project to remove encampments of people from two tunnels in Kensington is about to expire.

On Wednesday, anyone who hasn’t left voluntarily will have their belongings crated up and moved and police will issue citations to those who remain.

Outreach workers have spent the past 28 days making daily visits and providing immediate services– either respite shelter or rehab treatment– for those who want it. The city says more than 100 people have accepted shelter– more in the first three weeks of the program than in the previous six months– and about 35 percent of them have entered treatment. Read more

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A pilot project to remove encampments of people from two tunnels in Kensington is about to expire.

On Wednesday, anyone who hasn’t left voluntarily will have their belongings crated up and moved and police will issue citations to those who remain.

Outreach workers have spent the past 28 days making daily visits and providing immediate services– either respite shelter or rehab treatment– for those who want it. The city says more than 100 people have accepted shelter– more in the first three weeks of the program than in the previous six months– and about 35 percent of them have entered treatment.

May 24, 2018

Cautious optimism as Kensington heroin camps prepare for eviction

By Aubrey Whelan, The Inquirer

It’s less than a week before the city’s self-imposed deadline to shut down two of Philadelphia’s heroin encampments, where people have been living since last fall — and the camps along Kensington’s Lehigh Avenue are swelling with people.

The difference: Fewer are people in addiction, and more are city housing and medical workers who have been visiting the camps daily, in an effort never before deployed, to get people into drug treatment and permanent housing by the May 30 deadline.

By some measures it’s working: Here, at the heart of Philadelphia’s opioid crisis, more people have entered treatment in the last two weeks — 39 — than in the prior six months.

May 4, 2018

How Philadelphia is fighting homelessness as the weather gets warmer – Director’s Interview with Fox 29

Fox 299 interview with Liz hersh on outreach

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.


Philadelphia receives $33 million to fund homeless housing programs

Read the press coverage:
January 19, 2018


By Michael Tanenbaum
“New programs enabled by the $33 million grant will focus on the following areas:

  • Households fleeing domestic violence
  • Young adults ages 18-24
  • Households with children
  • Households without children
  • Homeless people brought into the system through mobile assessors
  • Chronically homeless households where the head of household has a disability.”

Curbed Philly

Nearly 100 homeless assistance programs, ongoing and new, will make use of the funding

January 18, 2018

Philadelphia Awarded $33 Million to Fund New and Existing Housing Programs for the Homeless

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services has been awarded $33 million in highly competitive federal grant money to fund both new and existing programs to house the city’s homeless.

The money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will fund the continuing operation of each of the 99 homeless assistance programs the City sought federal dollars from HUD to renew. These programs provide more than 2,700 units of transitional and permanent housing coupled with vital supportive services and have proven effective in meeting the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.

To further the city’s efforts to house the homeless, the HUD award will also fund six new Philadelphia homeless intervention programs each with a housing-first approach and each targeting a different vulnerable population identified by the Office of Homeless Services as being in critical need of support.

“We are thrilled because this substantial allocation of funding enables us to not only continue what’s working but to expand on it,” said Philadelphia’s Homeless Services Director Liz Hersh. “To have all 99 of our renewal projects funded andbe able to implement new homeless strategies and interventions for Philadelphia is incredible.”

The city’s new homeless intervention programs slated for funding will provide housing support to the following target populations beginning this calendar year: households fleeing domestic violence; young adults ages 18-24; households with children; households without children; homeless people brought into the system through mobile assessors; and chronically homeless households where the head of household has a disability.

Philadelphia’s renewal projects will continue providing housing assistance to a wide range of homeless populations with varying and complex needs from individuals struggling with an addiction or mental illness to families with children where the head of household is living with HIV/AIDS to formerly homeless families in need of rapid re-housing to individuals who have a long and troubling history of living on the street.

Philadelphia successfully transitioned more than 300 chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing last year and also released the city’s most comprehensive report on youth homelessness to date.

And just last week the Office of Homeless Services concluded its successful effort to keep the homeless safe and warm – saving lives and helping hundreds – during an intense 15-day stretch of extreme cold exacerbated by snow and icy conditions accounting for the city’s longest-running Cod Blue period in modern history.

“We’re having a real impact on homelessness in Philadelphia and we’re putting forth every effort to make homelessness as rare, brief and nonrecurring as possible,” Hersh said.

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:

By Generocity 

participatory design lab

By Curbed Philly

By Philly Voice

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

KYW City Offering ‘Text Alternative’ To Reduce Panhandling  

FOX 29: Mayor Kenney announces plan to deal with panhandling (10PM)

WHYY: Mayor Kenney announces plan to deal with panhandling (6PM)

FOX 29: Mayor Kenney announces plan to deal with panhandling (5PM)

cbsphilly logo

Homeless Families Search For Shelter Before School Starts

August 22, 2016
Pat Loeb

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.

cbsphilly logo

DNC Homeless Strategy Has Lasting Impact For Some In Phila.

August 1, 2016
Pat Loeb

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.

DNC Homeless Strategy Has Lasting Impact For Some In Phila.

cbsphilly logo

City’s DNC Plans Include A Homeless Strategy

July 1, 2016
Pat Loeb

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.

City’s DNC Plans Include A Homeless Strategy

npr logo

Philadelphia Boosts Aid For Homeless During Democratic Convention

July 29, 2016
Aaron Modelle 

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.


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.

nbc10 logo

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.

Huffington Post

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.

Philadelphia Tribune

Under DNC glare, agency puts focus on the homeless

July 26, 2016
Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer

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
Bryce Covert

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.”

May 23, 2018

Effort to clear out some Philly homeless encampments drawing to a close

By Aaron Moselle, WHYY

Kate Perch at Prevention Point

. . . . . “We’ve had some tremendous successes,” Liz Hersh, director of the city’s Office of Homeless Services, said of the program, which has involved several agencies and dozens of city employees.

To date, about 100 people have come in off the streets – roughly half of the homeless population the city estimated was living in four encampments in the neighborhood, including the camps on Kensington Avenue and Tulip Street.

Thanks to the program, a lot of people are now staying in one of three respite centers – low-barrier shelters that don’t require people to have an ID or stop using drugs. They just can’t shoot up inside the centers. . . . . .

April 26, 2018
outreach in encampments

Philly’s new plan to clear homeless encampments aims to take a ‘person-centered approach’

Aaron Moselle – WHYY

Philadelphia is launching a pilot program to begin clearing out homeless encampments in Kensington, an area that has become ground zero in the city’s opioid crisis. Read the article.

April 26, 2018

Philadelphia shares plan to clear Kensington’s heroin encampments

Aubrey Whelan – The Inquirer

Philadelphia officials on Thursday announced a plan to clear two of the heroin encampments on Lehigh Avenue in Kensington, where people in addiction have been living since a longtime encampment in a nearby train gulch was cleared last summer. Read the article.

February 22, 2018

Philadelphia, A City Stalked by Overdoses, Fights Back

Tina Rosenberg, NY Times

“In case you missed it, the New York Times profiled Philadelphia’s unique approach to addressing the opioid crisis. The lack of a waiting list for treatment in Philadelphia, which reflects the City’s expansion of treatment opportunities, was hailed as a major success among other cities facing this epidemic. Increased access to treatment in Philadelphia’s emergency rooms and jails as well as the City’s support for Comprehensive User Engagement Sites (CUES) were also highlighted as bold, innovative steps to save lives”. The article can be found here.

January 29, 2018

Who counts Philly’s homeless? Sometimes, people who’ve experienced it themselves

“Having people with lived experience assist in the count makes it more productive, since empathy is a powerful tool, said Liz Hersh, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services.”

by Courtenay Harris Bond BILLYPENN

January 26, 2018

Philly’s homeless count program taps help from people who can relate

“Monique Taylor interviews a homeless man near Headhouse Square for the 2018 homeless census. Like many who fanned out across the city Wednesday night, Taylor has experienced homelessness.”

by Emma Lee WHYY

Opioid crisis complicates annual effort to tally Philly’s homeless population

“At midnight, volunteers dispersed from the Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Broad Street and fanned out to every corner of the city to talk to as many unsheltered people as possible about how they landed there.”

by Colt Shaw PhiladelphiaWeekly

January 23, 2018

Volunteers Assist in Point-In-Time Survey To Help Combat Homelessness

Many of the volunteers have experienced homelessness. Check out the story.

January 13, 2018

Philly officials: Outreach prevented homeless deaths in bitter cold snap

by Andrew Parent, PhillyVoice staff

January 10, 2018

Watch the Director, Liz Hersh’s interview about Hub of Hope and SEPTA on PCAM Voices

CBS Philly article:

Philadelphia Takes Serious Look At Homeless Youth, Hope For Ending It

November 6, 2017

WHYY, Tom McDonald

New daytime home for Philadelphians without a place to live opening in January

John Middleton
John Middleton, a part owner of the Phillies, is a major supporter of the fight against homelessness in Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald, WHYY)

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

homeless in suburban station

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
hub of hope under construction

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

August 2017

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

August 31,2017

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

April 26, 2017

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.”

Read the article:

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.

Press coverage:

One-fifth of homeless youth in Philly have been trafficked for sex, new study finds

March 3, 2017

homeless man on bench

March 2, 2017

pope francis and homeless

February 21, 2017

hidden hellscape

February 17, 2017

cold and homeless man

February 14, 2017

Pay for Success?

February 13, 2017

January 26, 2017

January 19, 2017