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..

Dozens hit Philly’s Kensington Avenue for first ‘large-scale’ cleanup

“Towards the tail end of the morning rush on Thursday, dozens of volunteers swarmed the busy sidewalk below the Allegheny stop along Philadelphia’s Market-Frankford El. Steps away on Kensington Avenue, city trucks barreled up and down the commercial corridor, hosing down the asphalt and clearing out storm drains.” Read the article.

October 18, 2019

Kensington homeless camp closures: What we know about Philly’s next moves

Billypenn, by Max Marin

Frankford Avenue and Emerald Street bridge tunnels will be cleared out by early 2019.

Press coverage of the Mayor on the Philadelphia Resilience Project

Kenney’s new plan for opioid epidemic

CBS 3: Mayor Kenney announces the Philadelphia Resilience Project (5PM)

6 ABC: Mayor Kenney announces the Philadelphia Resilience Project (5PM)

NBC 10: Mayor Kenney announces the Philadelphia Resilience Project (5PM)

City announces plan to clear Frankford Avenue, Emerald Street drug encampments

After disaster declaration, Philly outlines goals for opioid-plagued Kensington

September 12, 2018

Philadelphia aims to decrease homeless ranks by 5 percent annually over 5 years

August 19, 2018

Kensington encampment eviction, 10 weeks later: Success or failure?

By Pat Loeb, KYW News Radio 1060
Three months ago, Salvador Colon was hopelessly addicted to heroin, living on the street, taking refuge in the tunnel encampments in Kensington. This week, sober and in shelter, he started a new job at a roofing company.

“I tell myself, it’s like a resurrection,” he said.

Colon’s turnaround is an indirect outcome of the city’s pilot project to eliminate two of the tunnel encampments and is as much a reason that Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services, deems the project a success, as the fact that the targeted streets remain clear. Read 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 1, 2018

Hundreds join city cleanup in drug-plagued Kensington


“Sylvia Colon didn’t mince her words when asked why she joined in the massive cleanup of the Kensington neighborhood on Thursday.

I’m afraid,” said Colon, pushing a broom in front of the Walgreens at the corner of Kensington and Allegheny avenues. “I’m afraid that my nephew — he’s 2 years old — that he’s gonna pick up a needle one day. …..

Still, Colon joined hundreds of city personnel and volunteers as part of the Philadelphia Resilience Project, a city-sponsored response to the opioid crisis. Beginning at 9 a.m. and finishing at 1 p.m., they cleaned Kensington Avenue from Allegheny to Lehigh Avenue and two blocks east and west on Lehigh and Allegheny avenues.” Read the article and statistics.

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 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