Homeless Safety a Heightened Issue During Summer Months

By David T. Jones
Acting Commissioner,

Summer is here –- at last -– and for many people, thoughts turn to fun family getaways, sitting out by the pool or on the beach and sweet treats like ice cream or water ice to cool us down. But for people who are living on the street, these options of summer escapes aren’t so readily accessible.

Hundreds of people experience periods of street homelessness in Philadelphia, using street corners, transit hubs and parks as shelter. Heavily-traveled areas, particularly in and around Center City, reveal the faces of this sad reality. And while being homeless can be devastating enough for an individual, the problem is only compounded for those who are also living with an untreated mental illness, addiction, or both.

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Volunteers Needed for 2018 Philadelphia Homeless Count

Every year Philadelphia, with the support of hundreds of volunteers, conducts a Point-in-Time Count of all persons experiencing homelessness on the streets, in a shelter, and in other temporary housing.

The purpose of the count is to estimate the size of the populations in need of housing and supportive services. The Point-in-Time (PIT) Count is planned and executed by the Office of Homeless Services, DBHIDS, Project HOME, Valley Youth House, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

The results of the count are reported to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and are vital to supporting Philadelphia’s efforts to eradicate homelessness from our City.

In preparation for the 2018 count, which will begin at 10:30 p.m. on the night of Jan. 24 and conclude at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25, we are recruiting volunteers to canvass the City to count and survey all homeless individuals. Volunteers that have never participated in a PIT Count must be available to attend a one-hour training.

If you are available to volunteer or want additional information about the different types of opportunities please visit the 2018 Point-in-Time Count registration page. For the 2018 PIT Count, there are positions available to earn a stipend for six hours of PIT related work.

These paid positions are reserved for individuals who have experienced any of the following: homelessness; substance abuse disorder; a mental health diagnosis; military duty; dual diagnosis; housing insecurity. Positions will be filled on a lottery system and selected individuals will be notified by email. If you run a program and have participants interested in volunteering, please submit their information for consideration at the 2018 Point-in-Time Count registration page. Look for the Peer Team Member Application.


Philly to Focus Outreach to Homeless on Center City “Hotspots”

The Kenney administration announced a new strategy to fight panhandling and street homelessness in Philadelphia on Monday, one that will focus existing outreach efforts on Rittenhouse Square, the Convention Center, South Broad Street and Market East.

Those areas were identified as “hotspots” by the Office of Supportive Housing, which administers many of the city’s homelessness programs, with help from the Center City District. The office is hoping that the initiative will help the city gather better data about who is living on the streets while “alleviating the concerns” of tourists and intervening directly with homeless people to get them to take advantage of city services and, eventually, provide them with housing. 

Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Supportive Housing, announced the initiative Monday at City Hall, surrounded by Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Philadelphia Housing Authority President Kelvin Jeremiah, Dr. Arthur Evans of the Department of Behavioral Health, and dozens of housing and social services advocates. Hersh was hired by the Kenney administration to run the office after years as an advocate with Pennsylvania Housing Alliance.

She applauded the mayor on Monday, saying he has been “a tremendous champion for the poorest and most vulnerable people in our city.”

Kenney said that he had started out his political career believing that homelessness was a police problem, but now believes the city should stop criminalizing homeless people. Kenney said the initiative, focused on downtown areas with high pedestrian traffic, isn’t meant to keep homeless people out of sight ahead of the Democratic National Convention this summer. In fact, he said, he’s hoping to enlist some national Democrats to help bolster the city’s homelessness outreach efforts.

The new outreach effort will be carried out with “existing resources,” Hersh said, with the addition of one small outreach unit focused on drug and alcohol addiction. The efforts will be targeted during morning and evening commuter rush hours and during lunchtime, Hersh said.

New Homeless Outreach Strategy to Be Discussed at Press Conference

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has announced plans to discuss a new homeless outreach strategy in Center City with the leaders of the Office of Supportive Housing and DBHIDS.


Mayor Jim Kenney
Liz Hersh
, Director of the Office of Supportive Housing
Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Commissioner, DBHIDS
Stephanie B. Thomas, Project Manager, The Food and Shops at Suburban Station Concourse, Metro Market Management, LLC
Kelvin Jeremiah, President and CEO, Philadelphia Housing Authority
Jannie Blackwell, Member, Philadelphia City Council


May 16, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.


Mayor’s Reception Room, City Hall


Mayor Kenney and city officials will announce a new homeless outreach strategy for Center City in response to an increased presence of street homelessness at four high volume Center City locations identified as hotspots.

Immediately following the press conference, the Office of Supportive Housing will deploy six uniformed street outreach teams to each hotspot location to transition the individuals and families they find living on the street into housing, addiction treatment, mental health counseling, and other social services.

Members of the media are invited to go out with the city’s street outreach teams as they are deployed to hotspots.

This event is not open to the public.