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.

April 1, 2019

City has helped some people displaced during encampment sweeps. But what about the others?

Joshua Brown panhandles outside the SEPTA station at 8th and Market streets. He says a desire to get clean is trumped by missing out on the next big score. | Image: Courtenay Harris Bond

Growth of Philadelphia’s homeless population slowing, officials say

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The numbers are now in from Philadelphia’s annual count of homeless people out on the streets of the city, and city officials say they show some progress.

Study examines effects of city program to evict homeless encampments

An independent study on the demographics of people living in recently evicted homeless encampments showed that many were Philadelphians, and many suffered from addiction, according to a statement released by the city Tuesday.

When Philly shuts down its winter beds, there’s not enough housing to go around

Michaela Winberg, Billy Penn WHYY
When winter starts to wind down, providers kick it into high gear, attempting to engage shelter residents in long-term housing programs before their seasonal stay ends.

Addressing homelessness at Philadelphia’s transit hubs

Kenneth Crafton has been homeless for three years. Tonight he’ll sleep inside the station on 15th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.  When asked why he said, “Because it’s warm down here and people can come down here and eat. Sometimes social services comes down here and does some things, people come down here and give you clothes.”

Report finds Kensington homeless encampments not just a symptom of opioid crisis

Among the findings were that three-quarters of those surveyed struggled with opioid use, and that 40 percent had been homeless for more than a year. That, the researchers said, suggests the encampments were not just products of the opioid crisis, but also of broader issues that lead to homelessness.

February 1, 2019

Philadelphia officials work to clear homeless encampments, support residents

FOX29 Good Day Philadelphia | Mike Jerrick, Alex Holley, Hank Flynn

Features OHS Director Liz Hersh explaining Philadelphia’s encampment pilot and how Philly’s innovative, compassionate solutions are creating a message of hope and resolution.

January 31, 2019

Amid bitter cold, Philly closes last Kensington encampment

WHYY | Joel Wolfram

Elevates the work of the City, homeless outreach workers, police, and OHS partners including Prevention Point and Pathways to Housing PA.

Philadelphia’s last major drug encampment closes in bitter cold, but the opioid crisis persists

Philadelphia Inquirer | Aubrey Whelan

Walks through the Emerald Street encampment closure and the City’s encampment pilot as well as elevating work of outreach workers and OHS partner Prevention Point

Workers clean out last major homeless encampment in Kensington

KYW Newsradio 1060 | Tim Jimenez

Highlights City collaboration with neighborhood residents and work of OHS and outreach.

Philadelphia City workers finish cleanup of Emerald Street homeless camp

6ABC | Bob Brooks

Focuses on closure and work of police and OHS, features lived experience perspective from Dante Jones.

How to help when cold weather forces Philadelphia into Code Blue

Philadelphia Inquirer | Grace Dickinson

Elevates work of OHS partners and Hub of Hope, promotes homeless outreach as primary route to help others, offers ways to volunteer and support OHS partners. Appeared in print on February 1.

After record cold, nuisance snow, could temperatures really go from 7 to 60? | Anthony R. Wood, Henry Savage

General interest weather story that highlights OHS commitment to doing whatever necessary to keep people experiencing homelessness safe during Code Blue.

Outreach teams working around the clock to shelter homeless during bitter cold night

CBS Philly | Greg Argos

Elevates work of OHS partner Project HOME and homeless outreach staff.

South Street theater screened films for homeless during Code Blue Nights

WHYY | Kyrie Greenberg

Covers small local row about a theater on South Street functioning as de facto overnight cafe and provides general info about Code Blue and outreach.

Dangerous cold puts the homeless at risk

NBC10 | Keith Jones

Provides information about homeless outreach walking the beat during Code Blue along with faith-based groups providing clothing and food on their own.

December 18, 2018

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

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

December 18, 2018

Campaign targets homeless, seeks public’s help

Associated Press/Philadelphia Tribune

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

December 3, 2018

As Philadelphia temperatures dip, homeless outreach workers distribute socks, smiles and resources

By Grace Shallow, Generocity

“OHS begins planning for the colder season that lasts from early December to March in the late summer,(OHS Deputy Director Roberta) Cancellier said.

The city office adds between 200 to 300 spaces for the whole season through partnerships with nonprofits and “cafés,” which aren’t full-fledged shelters, but warm indoor spaces that offer basic amenities. Church-based spaces — such as Trinity Memorial Church on 22nd and Spruce streets — are also instrumental because they are usually less crowded and have a low barrier for entry, Cancellier said.”

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.


January 30, 2019

City pushes to move homeless into shelters during brutal cold

6ABC | Bob Brooks

Highlights the work of outreach and OHS partners and talks about the Emerald Street encampment closure about to occur.

Why South Street Cinema’s Code Blue nights for homeless Philadelphians got shut down

Billy Penn | Michaela Winberg

Covers local row about theater on South Street functioning as de facto overnight cafe, provides general info about Code Blue and regulatory structures governing City-funded shelters.

January 28, 2019

Snow, rain, deep freeze in store for Philly region this week; City declares a Code Blue | Joseph A. Gambardello

General weather story providing Code Blue information and outreach hotline.

Dangerously cold weather returns to Philly this week

Metro Philadelphia | Michael Butler

Provides general information about outreach and Code Blue, including how to request outreach teams.

A community-supported fatality review might reduce overdose deaths in Philadelphia

Generocity | Grace Shallow

Looks at proposal to create fatality review board for overdoses and extensively uses the City’s homeless death review board and its history and operations as an example.

January 27, 2019

Philadelphia’s annual homeless count reveals new realities about the opioid crisis

Philadelphia Inquirer | Aubrey Whelan

Covers the Point-in-Time Count tying into the opioid crisis and Kensington specifically, highlighting work of OHS, homeless outreach, and OHS partner Prevention Point.

December 28, 2018

Here’s where people living on Philly streets can find respite from the cold


Meet nine facilities keeping people experiencing homelessness safe in the wintertime. . . .a list of facilities that people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia can access this winter. Some will be open during the holidays, but each location’s hours and services vary.

December 18, 2018

New campaign hopes to lower city’s homeless population

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

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

December 18, 2018

Philly and Project HOME announce new awareness campaign for homelessness

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

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

November 1, 2018

Hundreds join city cleanup in drug-plagued Kensington

By John N. Mitchell Tribune

“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