Point In Time Count

2018 Point In Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness

Every year, Philadelphia, with the support of hundreds of volunteers, conducts a Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of all persons experiencing homelessness on the streets, in shelter, and in other temporary housing. The purpose of the count is to estimate the size of the population in need of homeless housing and supportive services. The Point-in-Time Count is planned for and executed by the Office of Homeless Services, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Project HOME, Valley Youth House and the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center. The 2018 Count began at 10:30pm on the night of January 24th and concluded at 7pm on January 25th. Volunteers were recruited for various roles at different times to support the execution of the Count. Results will be available in March.

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.

Tallying the Young Homeless on City Streets – an article in the Philadelphia Tribune by John N Mitchell. Read more Press coverage.

On the early morning of January 26, 2017 more than 250 volunteers combed all parts of the City to survey the unsheltered homeless.  At the same time counts were being made of the sheltered homeless.

Point in Time Count Summary
September 2017
(see images below)

2017 Point-in-Time Count 

2016 Homeless Point in Time Count All Households

CoC PIT Count cf 2015 and 2016


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Volunteers Span Philadelphia To Count City’s Homeless Population

January 26, 2017, 2:56pm, by Cherri Gregg

The software piloted during Philly’s homelessness count last year is expanding

January 17, 2017, 10:15am, by Tony Abraham