Success Stories

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.

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.

More Housing for Youth

Covenant House interior
One of the rooms in Covenant House
Covenant House
Covenant House

In 2016 City Council held hearings on youth homelessness. As a result, the Administration partnered with City Council to appropriate $500,000 to expand the homeless housing system for youth. We launched the Housing for Youth Collaborative in fall 2016. Here’s what they accomplished in their first year!

  • 107 unduplicated young adults stayed in Covenant House’s Emergency Housing; (83 youth were duplicates for a total of 190 service contacts)
  • 26 unduplicated young adults moved into housing through Pride Housing
  • 40 young adults participated in LGBTQ-specific support services (15 received counseling)
  • 21 young adults were actively involved in job development services; eight were employed after career coaching; 46 referrals received

Preventing Homelessness – Going the Extra Mile for Families 

A Syrian refugee family was referred to us for help with back rent.  The small family consisted of a mother, father and teenage autistic son. The mother cannot work because she is her son’s primary caregiver. The family had previously located and secured housing with the help of a refugee program, but fell behind on rent. Staff from the Emergency Assistance Unit was able to provide financial assistance to keep the family stably housed.

We also helped a mother and her physically and mentally disabled adult daughter. The mother called us from her front porch after being locked out of her apartment. The family had limited income, and a death in the family led to a rental delinquency. The daughter was admitted to the hospital right after the eviction. A staff member went the extra mile to help the family by traveling to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital to complete the intake and obtain required documentation. We were able to pay the families’ entire back rent to ensure that they had a home to return to upon the daughter’s discharge from the hospital.

100-Day Street Homelessness Challenge

Letter from Liz Hersh, Director, Office of Homeless Services

Last June the Office of Homeless Services launched the 100-Day Street Homelessness Challenge to turn up the heat on Chronic, Youth and Recently Homeless. You were one of the leaders or team members who joined us. Where are we today, 365 days later?

More Leadership1oo day challenge conference

  • Evolved into Shared Public Spaces Workgroup, bringing business, civic and hospitality leaders together with providers and advocates for real solutions to street homelessness
  • Launched “Text to Donate” campaign to interrupt panhandling
  • Expanded daytime options for people on the street

More Homes

  • More than 300 chronically homeless people got permanent housing!
  • 1,000 households moved from homeless to housed
  • Secured new funds to expand by 100 homes in FY 18.

More Services for Homeless Youth

  • Opened 25 new youth emergency housing beds as of January 2017. Covenant House a significantly decreased turnaway rate for single young men and women compared with 546 turnaways the year before
  • Opened 25 new youth Rapid Re-housing beds (specifically for LGTBQ youth) as of January 20th
  • Connected youth to jobs, counseling and mentoring
  • Hired full time Youth Coordinator
  • Established Philly Homes 4 Youth Coalition as a continuation of the 100 Day Challenge youth team – it’s a first!
  • Established Youth Adult Leadership Committee to ensure youth have a voice

100 day challenge group discussionMore Options for Homeless Families
More Rapid Re-housing
Doubling of prevention and diversion in FY 18
Partnership with DHS

New Models
Piloted innovative approaches like Bethesda’s Serenity House which is a master lease housing three women who were chronically homeless
Housed not Hidden Respite, a smaller emergency residence, piloted and succeeded. Expanded over the winter and now expanding further as an alternative to larger shelters


More Outreach

  • Calls are up 50 percent since last year at this time
  • Added two new outreach teams, thanks to DBHIdS

New Policy Solutions for Youth Homelessness Prevention100 day challenge group discussion

  • Juvenile Justice subcommittee drafted enhancements to planning and services both while youth are in the juvenile justice system and during their re-entry
  • Child Welfare subcommittee drafted proposals for transition planning, board extensions, and resumption of care for youth in foster care

New Data

  • Established one “By Name” list of people on the streets (this is a big deal)
  • Data sharing agreements – (big deal) the ability to share client information across departments and providers working with the same people

The 100-Day Street Homelessness Challenge jump-started new partnerships committed to tackling the tough problems of street homelessness. It has evolved into a new way to do business at the Office of Homeless Services, without compromising the things that are already working.

Thank you again for your involvement. You have had an impact. And we couldn’t move forward without your support.

Understanding Homelessness

registering for pit count The issue of modern homelessness is broad and complex, affecting too many of our neighbors and communities. Understanding Homelessness is the result of a collaboration between planners, designers, and software developers combined with valuable insights from organizations that work every day with individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Dig into the site to explore causes, solutions, and data.