Efforts to Address Street Homelessness

Shared Public Spaces Workgroup

Efforts Underway to Address Street Homelessness and Panhandling

August 2017

The number of homeless people has gone down from 2016-17, but the number of unsheltered has gone up with Center City and Kensington as the major hotspots. This is a national trend. The Opioid epidemic is largely behind the crisis. The City has added treatment slots, especially medication-assisted, and is working to reduce the over-prescription of Opioids, but we are still in the throes of the crisis. While state and federal partnerships have receded, the City has, with the help of Shared Public Spaces, a public/private workgroup established by the Mayor, taken several steps to address the number of people on the streets.

1) Text to Give  – Interrupting panhandling, providing an alternative  
In Wawa stores, bus shelters, several hotels, restaurants; being promoted by businesses and universities; Center City District has been extremely helpful; hired Portfolio to promote further. Posters and palm cards are available.

2) Street Change – a smart phone “app”  http://www.streetchangephilly.org/
Enables passers-by to give specific items to a person on the street identified by a sign. The recipient then collects the items at the Mental Health Partnership New Life Center where services are made available, a promising direct solution to panhandling.

New Life for Recovery Center

3) Expanding Daytime Options – engagement centers as alternative to being on the street
New Life Center is now open 8am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. Transportation is being provided daily.
Hub of Hope in the SEPTA Concourse opened January 3, 2018 and is open 7am to 7pm Monday through Friday and 3pm to 7pm Saturdays and Sundays.
Completed first-ever inventory of daytime services; now assessing gaps and strategy

4) Fixing the Front Door – Homeless Intake chosen to be City’s Knight Foundation focus for major system change
18-month Human Centered Design through the Mayor’s Policy Office to improve the system for both people experiencing homelessness and the staff who help them

5) Marketing to those on the street to reduce myths that keep people from coming in
Hired marketing firm to develop new materials for people experiencing street homelessness to educate them directly about what’s available and how to access meals, treatment and services

6) Exploring Low-Barrier Employment – Addressing economics of panhandling
Surveyed 128 panhandlers and learned many are homeless, drugs are a motivator and most (84%) would like a job. In fact, they work regular hours at a set location but can’t access employment due to mental illness, addiction and/or criminal background. They earn, on average, $20 a day and money is clearly the motivator. Now working with Chamber of Commerce, Shared Prosperity and the Commerce Department to explore low-barrier employment

7) Developing a Code of Conduct
Compiling a “policy” that outlines acceptable behaviors for sidewalks, parks, transit stations

8) Pay for Success
Project HOME funded initiative focused on chronically homeless in Journey of Hope piloting potential new financial model (no new units added).

9) More housing.
Housed people are not homeless and living on the street.

Adding 118 Supported Housing units for people who are chronically homeless

  • Builds on last year’s remarkable track record of housing 970 homeless households, including 327 chronically street homeless individuals.
  • Based on past track record, we can realistically anticipate a 90% success rate in preventing a return to homelessness
  • At least 17 of these units are specifically dedicated to people with Opioid use disorders.
  • Funded locally through additional dollars proposed by the Mayor and approved by City Council, efficiencies and cost-shifting in OHS operations and partnership with DBHIdS

Adding 56 year-round small emergency respite beds for adults experiencing street homelessness including 30 bi-lingual, bi-cultural beds in the Gurney Street area

Sustaining local investment in addressing youth homelessness which:

  • Last year provided Rapid Re-housing to 28 young people
  • Enabled Covenant House to stop turning away single young men and women.
  • Spawned Philly Homes 4 Youth, a coalition dedicated to preventing and ending youth homelessness in Philadelphia.

Added three new Homeless Outreach Teams

Member of an Outreach team works with a homeless man in Suburban Station

Thanks to funding from the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIdS)

  • One dedicated exclusively to Gurney Street
  • Plus one privately funded (Mental Health Partnership) dedicated to Rittenhouse Square

Piloting Shallow Rent

Innovative partnership with private market landlords to provide apartments to 15 individuals on limited fixed incomes who would otherwise cycle through the shelter system

Doubling prevention and diversion

to help households re-connect to community and family

Adding 150 Rapid Rehousing units to help 330 households move quickly out of shelter into their own apartments

  • 85% success rate in preventing a return to homelessness
  • Won a competitive grant through the State Housing Trust Fund (PHARE)
  • First in state to pilot TANF Rapid Re-Housing for 50 homeless families